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(Ismael Mohamad / United Press International)

Marwan Barghouti placed in isolation in punishment for call for popular resistance

Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti has been severely punished by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) for launching a statement from his cell last week. He called for the launch of large-scale popular resistance and urged people to stop marketing the illusion that there is a possibility of ending the occupation and achieving a state through negotiations.

Maan News Agency reported that, according to Fadwa Barghouti, the IPS responded to her husband’s statement by placing him in solitary confinement for three weeks and denying him the right to see visitors for two months. IPS spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told the press that Barghouti “has been placed in isolation for a week and denied visits and access to the inmates’ canteen for a month” as punishment for his statement.

Solitary confinement should be banned

In my blog “Israel’s cruel practice of isolation of prisoners should be banned”, I reported that Juan Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, had called for an end to the use of solitary confinement as a means of punishment or extortion.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to punish Palestinian political prisoners by keeping them in solitary confinement and isolation.

Marwan Barghouti has been placed in solitary confinement 21 times during the ten years he has spent in Israeli jails and he has spent four consecutive years in isolation, according to Fadwa Barghouti.

Deplorable conditions in Section 4 of Nafha Prison

Israel detains Palestinian political prisoners in Section 4 of Nafha prison in the Naqab (Negev). The Haifa-based human rights organization Adalah has demanded the closure of the prison wing. In a letter to the IPS and the Minister of Public Security, Adalah argues that the conditions endanger prisoners’ health and constitute cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment:

The walls in the wing are covered with wet patches and mold, with windows that do not permit sunlight or the circulation of air. The rooms are infested with cockroaches and insects, to the point that the mattresses that the prisoners sleep on are full of bugs and stink putridly.

In addition, the prison is unbearably overcrowded, with ten prisoners in a room that does not exceed 25 square meters, or 2.5 square meters per prisoner, far below internationally accepted standards. Closet space is insufficient, forcing prisoners to keep their clothing and belongings on the floor, further decreasing the available space. Toilets are not separate from the rest of the bathroom, making their use embarrassing and awkward. As the prisoners in Section 4 are classified as ‘security prisoners’, they are only permitted short recreation breaks in a small courtyard, which itself is not large enough for exercise.

The conditions worsened when Israeli prison guards wounded 61 Palestinian prisoners when they stormed Nafha prison on 1 April. According to a press statement by the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior in Gaza, the prisoners leaked a message which said that the guards stormed the prison’s various wards and assaulted prisoners. The attack followed the prisoners’ refusal to undergo DNA tests.

Call from Gilboa prison to stop the transfer of prisoners to Nafha prison

In my blog post “Israel punishes hunger striking prisoners by transferring them to other end of country”, I reported on the transfer of prisoners from Gilboa prison to the horrific Section 4 of Nafha prison. Meanwhile, I have received a message from Palestinian leader Ameer Makhoul who is held in Gilboa prison. He writes:

Over the last two days - 4 and 5 March – department 4 in Gilboa jail has been evacuated. 110 political prisoners were transferred by the prison authorities to Nafha jail in the Naqab. All of them are from the Galilee (in the North), Jerusalem and the occupied Golan. For those whose families live in the North, the families should travel more than 500 kilometers every two weeks in order to visit their son, brother or father. [All prisoners in Gilboa are men.] Families from the occupied Golan have to travel more than 600 kilometers. Many families will get no access to visit their beloved relatives in prison. The plan is not clear yet; prisoners actually feel confronted with a systematic policy of camouflage aimed at preventing them from challenging any act of evacuation to another prison. According to what prisoners heard, all political prisoners will be evacuated to the Naqab in two to three months. It is crucial to urge the European Union, the European Parliament as well as national ministries of foreign affairs to raise their voices and request the Israeli Prime Minister, the Minister of Internal Security and the Prison Commissioner to stop evacuations which make family visits impossible.

The call for intervention can be integrated in the activities that will be undertaken on 17 April 2012, a Day of International Action in support of the Palestinian political prisoners.