Palestinian Political Prisoners and Detainees
International Human Rights Day| Remember Palestinian Political Prisoners and Detainees in Israeli jails
Prisoners and Detainees in Israeli Jails
Imprisonment of motherhood
Since the occupation of Palestine in 1948, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned. Different groups of the Palestinian society are exposed to Israeli arrest campaigns, including children, women and the elderly. For decades, Palestinian female prisoners and detainees have been jailed by Israel and exposed to physical and psychological torture, in violation of humanitarian law. Mothers are disconnected from their families and young female prisoners grow up within jails. The result: a humanitarian crisis storming in a large number of Palestinian families
The treatment of female Palestinian prisoners is a violation of Articles 32, 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Article 27 of this convention asserts that women should enjoy special protection, a right ignored by Israel.
Since 1967, it is estimated that more than 15,000 Palestinian women were arrested by Israel. No accurate data is available for the period since the establishment of Israel in 1948 up to 1967. According to human rights organisations, the number of female political prisoners and detainees was 110 at the beginning of 2011. About 35 of them were released in a prisoner swap deal conducted between Hamas and Israel. In February 2013, there were twelve female political prisoners and detainees. The Israeli authorities continue to arrest women on a regular basis.
Causes of Arrests:
Women are arrested and jailed for different periods of time, ranging from a couple of hours to several years. The main cause for arresting them is to put pressure on their imprisoned partners or relatives. In order to obtain confessions from prisoners, the male prisoners are being threatened that their imprisoned partner or relative will be harmed.
The majority of male Palestinian political prisoners and detainees are accused of ‘resisting’ Israel’s occupation or supporting ‘resistance’.
Often, the political prisoners and detainees are public figures including political personalities, intellectuals and members of religious groups.
Intimidation and Torture:
In order to obtain information, that in many cases does not exist, physical and psychological torture is exerted by Israeli prison authorities. Furthermore, religious freedom is often restricted, exemplified by the confiscation of the Holy book of the Qur’an and other religious books. Examples of violent torture are beating, prolonged handcuffing and plucking locks of hair. Given their gender, female prisoners are extremely vulnerable to sexual harassment. Some female prisoners were stripped searched and obliged to get naked and to set in squat position for a long period of time.
Palestinian Child Prisoners| Denied all Basic Human Rights
Different groups of the Palestinian society are exposed to Israeli arrest campaigns in the past six decades, including women, children and the elderly. Children have been imprisoned on a regular basis and are, in the majority of cases, accused of throwing stones. This crime is punishable under military law by up to 20 years in prison.
The treatment of Palestinian child prisoners by Israel is a violation of Articles 2, 3, 37(b), 37(c), 37(d) and 40 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Additionally, Israel is in breach of Articles 65 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relating to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.
According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed and ratified by Israel in November 1991, a child is any individual under the age of 18.
Approximately 700 Palestinian children under the age of 18 from the occupied West Bank are prosecuted annually through Israeli military courts after being arrested, interrogated and detained by Israeli forces. History learns that Israel has targeted children aged between 12 and 17 and at times children as young as 9 were arrested. At the end of July 2013, nearly 320 children are held in detention centres in Israel.
The majority of the arrests of Palestinian children are made at checkpoints, on the street, or at their homes by armed Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night. The children are taken to detention centres where they are interrogated which, almost always, involves some form of torture or abuse. Sometimes these children have to sign ‘confessions’ in Hebrew, which they can’t understand. The total conviction rate is 99.74%.
The majority of the child prisoners are not
informed about the charges they face. Their families are
only informed about the place of detention or the charges
faced by their child in a later stage.
Financial fines and penalties are imposed on child prisoners and their families, which might impose a heavy burden on the family. Furthermore, child prisoners are regularly denied visits from lawyers and family members and, whilst imprisoned, education is often not provided.
Sultan Madi, 15, was kidnapped from his house in Aroub refugee camp. He was interrogated for a long period of time by Israeli forces. Whilst being interrogated, different torture techniques were used. Sultan Madi was imprisoned for 50 days in an Israeli jail with criminals, drug addicts and dangerous prisoners. During his time in prison, he was beaten repeatedly by those prisoners, without interference of the prison authorities.
Administrative Detention | Justifying Human Rights Violations
Israeli jails are considered to be the toughest, most cruel and unlivable facilities for prisoners and detainees in the world. Human rights violations take different forms, including the denial of medical care, physical and psychological torture, inhumane treatment and humiliation. Human rights organisations, like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, condemned Israel for its practices breaching international law.
One of these practices is ‘administrative detention’, an integral feature of occupying powers and repressive regimes. The Israeli authorities use ‘administrative detention’ to suppress people seeking their freedom. Since the occupation of Palestine, thousands of Palestinians have been held in Israeli custody as administrative detainees for long periods of time.
What is administrative
administrative detention is the detention of an individual by the state and occupying power for a long period of time without trial. This law has also been titled ‘emergency law’. Different regimes, including democracies and occupying powers, use administrative detention and justify the use as a preventive action to assure security. In practice, the main motivating factor for Israel authorities to use administrative detention is to suppress opposition. Unlike criminals, who are charged and convicted, prisoners held under administrative detention are detained without accusations.
Israeli occupation authorities regularly use the administrative detention law. In November 1989 a mass arrest of 1749 Palestinians took place, all of them were placed under administrative detention. The number of prisoners held under administrative detention fluctuated over the years and reached over a thousand in the early years of the second Intifada in 2000.
In 2011, the number of Palestinian detainees held under administrative detention was 219 and increased to 309 detainees in 2012, however in 2013, the number decreased to 198 Prisoners.
The impact of administrative detention of prisoners is immense as they are deprived from family visits, placed in solitary confinement and in many ways discriminated. These conditions pushed more than 2000 prisoners on 17th April 2012 to start a mass hunger strike to end administrative detention policy, solitary confinement and improving the living conditions in prisons.
Although international law restricts the use of administrative detention, Israel is using it regularly. Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, state prisoners should have a fair trial. The arrest and deportation of prisoners and administrative detainees is a violation of Articles 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Eliminating Palestinian Democracy
Almost every Palestinian has been confronted with one or more of the different Israeli occupation methods. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians were either killed, wounded, arrested or exiled. Teachers, students, journalists, human rights activists, politicians and many others have all been victims. Despite the numerous peace accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian authority, the former continues to neglect such agreements.
Legislative Council (PLC):
One of the Israeli goals is to limit the freedom of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), through the imprisonment of its members. Early in the second Intifada, Israel arrested parliamentarian Mirwan al Barghouti, a key leader in the Fateh movement. In 2006, a new parliament was elected which was a genuine representation of all fractions. Shortly after the election, Israeli army carried out a wide-scale campaign targeting a number of PLC members affiliated to Hamas movement. Out of 132 elected parliamentarians, 50 were arrested. They were imprisoned under the administrative detention law without trial while some of them were exiled to other cities than their hometowns. The most prominent figure was Dr. Aziz Dwaik, speaker of the PLC.
International law bans all forms of abduction, arrests or harming of officials and civilians of any sovereign state. Domestic and International laws give politicians and lawmakers immunity whilst they are performing their duties.
Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest detention or exile”, whereas Article 11 point out that “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence”. Articles 5, 7 and 10 affirm similar rights in the case of prisoners. The Israeli practices towards Palestinian lawmakers, are in breach of the aforementioned rules and regulations.
Suppressing Democracy and
The arrests of the lawmakers and politicians froze the work of the PLC, which is supposed to serve democracy and people.
Ms. l. Arbour, UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights, argues that
“Effective democratic governance therefore rests on the responsible exercise of power by an executive that respects the prerogatives of other branches of governance, as well as a parliament and an independent judiciary that are vigilant and assertive in protecting the constitutional powers vested in them.Furthermore, Israel is hindering the peace process as they are aggressive against the Palestinian state and, in doing so, violating Palestinian sovereignty.”