Special Report on Prisoners & detainees from the Gaza Strip
Special Report on Palestinian Political Prisoners and detainees from the Gaza Strip
Since 1967 the Israeli occupation arrested more than 700,000 Palestinians, 250,000 of whom were residents of the Gaza Strip making up 35% of all arrests, a high percentage considering the small size of the Strip, and the small population compared to the number of Palestinians in the West Bank and 1948 occupied Palestine.
By the end of October 2013 around 4,996 Palestinian political prisoners and detainees and prisoners in Israeli jails, 386 from the Gaza Strip. Amongst them who have been in detention for over 25 years. Prisoners from Gaza are often in ill health, isolation and have life sentences, as well as other prisoners who although their sentences have ended but still in detention which comes under the ‘Unlawful Combatant’ Law.
What is noteworthy is that the Israeli occupation adds to the total systematic violations against Palestinian political prisoners and detainees, three additional violations specific and dedicated against prisoners from the Gaza Stip.
Gazan detainees have been prevented from receiving visits from family members from July 2007 until May 2012 after Gilad Shalit swap deal.They also face insistence that they be treated according to ‘Unlawful Combatant’ laws. In addition, tens of Gazans are abducted due to Israeli invasions and detained without charge under the pretext of crossing the boarders of the land and sea blockade imposed upon the Strip seven years ago.
Collective Punishment Policy:
the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006 by
Palestinian faction groups, Israel imposed a collective
punishment policy against Palestinian political prisoners
and detainees. Gazan prisoners were also victims of this
policy as the occupation approved in July 2007 a legislation
that would ban prisoners from the Gaza Strip from receiving
any visits from their relatives and loved ones.
More than two thousand Gazan prisoners were affected since the enforcement of this law in 2007, while number of them still suffer this ban.
This move has seen a lot of condemnation and denunciation from Palestinian and International organisations and bodies which all called for real pressure to be exerted upon Israel to end such blatant violations of prisoner rights. Such violations contradict entirely with the Fourth Geneva Convention where it is clearly stated in Article number (116) that prisoners have the right to be periodically and routinely visited at least once every two months. Human rights activists also regarded the Israeli occupation’s insistence to impose collective punishment policies as ones that would further establish Israel’s image as a racist entity which still employs
The ‘Unlawful Combatant’ Law an Illegitimate Law:
In 2002, the Israeli occupation authorities enacted the ‘Unlawful Combatant’ law in an attempt to give false legitimacy to its repressive practices against prisoners, and to evade any legal accountability for stripping them of their legal and humanitarian rights.
The law defines unlawful combatants as ‘persons acting against the security of Israel’, a loose definition which the occupation authorities made to be used as a pretext against Palestinian prisoners whenever it wanted.
The law gives the Israeli army broad powers to arrest and indict Palestinian citizens for indefinite periods without filing an indictment or presenting evidence of conviction before the courts, and of course without the detainee or his lawyers knowing the reason for the arrest.
The Israeli occupation had stepped up the use of this law against the people of the Gaza Strip since 2007 when it declared Gaza as ‘hostile entity’, and started treating detainees on the basis of this law and not as ‘prisoners of war’. This is a fact that human rights activists consider an evasion of international humanitarian laws where the occupation escapes from legal accountabilities with respect to the rights of these detainees. This presents clear evidence of Israeli violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The Fourth Geneva Convention confirms under articles 66, 71, 72, 73 and 74 the right of a detainee to receive a fair trial before an independent body, as well as his/her rights to be informed of the charges against him/her and to defend or assign a lawyer to defend him/her. Israel absolutely violates this through its enforcement of the ‘Unlawful Combatant’ law.
Through monitoring of these violations under the pretext of the new law, it was found that 15 prisoners were arrested and dealt with according to this law during the war on Gaza in late 2008. It should be noted that this figure is that of documented cases only and that the occupation often conceals the true figures for such cases.
By mid of 2011, 6 prisoners from the Gaza Strip had completed their sentences but remained imprisoned under the excuse that they were unlawful combatants, another violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states in articles 132 and 134 that prisoners have the right to be freed immediately after his/her sentence finishes.
Frequent kidnapping of fishermen:
The Oslo Peace agreement that was signed between the Palestinian Authority and Israel states that Palestinian fishermen are permitted the sail to a depth of 20 miles from the shores of Gaza. The Israeli occupation did not commit to this agreement, and ever since the agreement was signed began reducing the sailing distance stipulated by the agreement.
Today, Israeli forces do not permit Gazan fishermen from sailing a distance of more than 3 miles, although the minimum distance to make fishing possible is no less than 10 miles into the sea. Gaza’s fishermen now constantly face shooting, shelling, raids on their boats and arrests from the Israeli naval forces. Seven fishermen were kidnapped by the occupation during January 2012 alone.
UFree Network | An independent European-wide human rights network, set up to defend the rights of Palestinian political prisoners and detainees.