Physicians Group visits Ofer Detention Camp
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel visits Ofer Detention Camp
20 April þ2005
A new interim report has been released by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel following a visit by a physician and lawyer from the organization to Ofer Detention Camp where Palestinian detainees are held
On 17 April 2005, a physician and lawyer from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel visited Ofer Detention Camp, after having received permission to do so from the Israeli Army, which runs the prison. PHR-Israel conducted the visit due to the numerous complaints it received from detainees in the center
Background Information on Ofer Detention Camp: Ofer Detention Camp holds adult male Palestinians and 16-18 year old minors who are held together in violation of international law, as well as minors under the age of 16 who are held separately. Many of the prisoners are administrative detainees. Some 80 prisoners are chronically ill.
Medical Services in Ofer: The medical services in the prison are based around two full-time doctors, as well as a clinic manager, a nurse and paramedics. Each prisoner is asked medical questions upon arrival in the camp, but does not undergo a physical examination, primarily, it seems, because of time constraints- doctors are pressured to speeding up the exams. Waiting for the doctor is done inside of a cage. Ill patients are examined by a doctor while two soldiers, a paramedic and the prisoners’ representative (“shawish”) are present. In addition, internists and family doctors arrive only once every two weeks and do not actually examine the prisoners but simply review their files.
Because of a shortage of manpower, even if the doctor specifically ordered an evacuation of a prisoner for emergency treatment it may be delayed. Similarly, the doctors’ are restricted by army regulations, and therefore, for example, cannot send a patient to receive operations that are of a preventative nature.
The medical staff is neither updated as to when prisoners are sent to GSS (Shin Bet) interrogations nor when they are returned, in spite of regulations requiring that prisoners be check upon leaving and arriving at the camp. Given the potential nature of GSS interrogations, these examinations are vital.
Summary of Visit: Dr. Avi Ronen, the volunteer from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel who entered Ofer, was able to examine six prisoners, aged 17-40, whose cases are being handled by PHR-Israel. One of the major problems he noted is the lack of proper documentation of treatment, which severely inhibits the follow-up care. Also, he said, there is an extreme lack of mental health care and psychosocial care, especially for the younger prisoners and the minors. The prisons also do not have the prisoners’ medical records from the Palestinian health care systems.
The dental equipment is old and needs replacement. On the day of Dr. Ronen’s visit, the dentist also arrived for the first time in three weeks; prisoners may be waiting too long for dental care.
Dr. Ronen reported that the two prison doctors were helpful and seemed interested in improving the conditions of the prisoners.
Conclusions and Recommendations: The medical services available to the prisoners are not satisfactory. The army must grant better conditions and treatment to the prisoners, especially since they do not have the option of getting their care from another source. Regulations should require that the doctors are made aware of when prisoners are sent to the GSS, especially since these interrogations can negatively affect the physical and mental health of the prisoners. Dr. Ronen stressed the need for psychosocial care for the younger prisoners. This, in addition to the violation of international law by holding minors together with adults.
The full report (5 pages) is available in Hebrew from the website: http://www.phr.org.il/phr/files/articlefile_1114015696326.doc
An English version will be available soon. Please contact PHR-Israel to receive copy when it is ready.