Harsh treatment of Palestinian women prisoners

Neve Tirza prison, Israel’s detention center where Palestinian women prisoners have been abused.

Neve Tirza Prison

There are now altogether approximately 100 Palestinian women political prisoners. On 13 June one group, about half of the women, was transferred back to Neve Tirza from Hasharon Prison. Though they took with them, among other belongings, the purchases they had made in the Hasharon prison canteen and the material for handicrafts, these items were not handed over by the Neve Tirza prison authorities, who also withheld the toys belonging to Marwat Taha’s baby boy Wael, one and a half years old. The representatives elected by the women prisoners were not recognized by the prison authorities until August 2004.

Hasharon Prison

The rooms are dirty and infected with mice and cockroaches. The heat is unbearable, The windows are closed and covered so that hardly any air or daylight can enter. There are not enough ventilators, and often the electricity is cut off, so that even the existing ventilators do not work.

Problems in Hasharon and Neve Tirza

The wardens’ attitude is extremely hostile; they humiliate and offend the prisoners. The food is insufficient, of inferior quality or even spoilt, it is dirty, often containing insects and worms. Sometimes there are not enough portions for all the women. The medical care is insufficient and unprofessional. Whatever the complaints of the women, the male nurse gives them a painkiller. If and when a woman at last succeeds to be seen by the prison doctor, she is supposed to undress in the presence of male wardens, which obviously she has to refuse.

After falling down, Majed Nas had her swollen leg bandaged by a male nurse. Only two weeks later she was seen by a doctor and obtained a prescription, but the medication was not available in the prison. Dental care was even more difficult to obtain than regular medical care, but as of July the prisoners are supposed to have regular access to a dentist. Letters and newspapers are not distributed regularly, and sometimes even letters that bear an exact address are returned to the sender.

Zakya ‘Awisah, an administrative detainee, who was released in July, had received many letters of support. The commander of the wing where she had been held, had threatened that if she continued to receive so many letters, she would not be allowed to write and receive any letters at all. Mothers with babies are living in the same cells with other prisoners. Contrary to what is an accepted custom in the section of the criminal prisoners, the doors of the political prisoners’ cells where small children live are not permitted to remain open during daytime. On behalf of the mothers and their babies, the lawyer of The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Sonia Boulous, and of WOFPP, Taghrid Jahshan, are preparing an appeal against this condition.

Permission to stand for matriculation exams is given arbitrarily. Out of sixteen women who asked to pass the exams, only five were given the permission. The lawyers of ACRI and WOFPP appealed against this situation. The prison authorities stated that standing for these exams is a privilege, and they can decide on whom this privilege is bestowed.

The High Court’s opinion, expressed on 21 July, was that standing for matriculation exams is not a privilege but a basic right and recommended that the prison authorities take this into consideration. Apparently, standing for matriculations exams will be allowed according to arrangements of the Education Ministry of the Palestinian Authority.

The arbitrary punishments meted out to the prisoners are increasing and are becoming harsher. There is a new method of punishing the women by imposing fines that are taken out of their prison canteen accounts. Considering that they have to buy additional food in order to complement the poor prison diet, and other basics, this is a very serious punishment.They are often put into solitary confinement in very small and very dirty cells. They are prevented from receiving family visits. Quite often they are beaten, but the prison authorities do not admit this. They claim that beating is not a unishment but a method of self defense. On a hot day at the beginning of July, during recreation time, the women were having fun splashing water on each other.

For this, seven women were fined NIS 200.- (US$ 50) each, and three women among the seven were punished additionally by being deprived of their daily walk in the yard for one week, and of family visits for two months. After a bucketful of water got spilled on the foot of a warden, Maha El’ak was beaten, tied to her bed for a day and a half and not allowed to go to the toilet. She was held in solitary confinement for one month. After the assassination of the Palestinian leader in Gaza, El-Rantissi, some women returned the food and held a mourning ceremony by saying prayers. For this, eight women were fined. NIS 400.- (US$ 100) each, they were not permitted to have family visits for two months, and some of them were put into solitary confinement for a few days.

Su’ad Ghazal was punished for writing details about the prison conditions in a letter to a French Human Rights Organization. Her punishment was a fine of NIS 250.- (US$ 65) and no family visits for two months. Su’ad Abu Hamed had switched off the light in her cell, after a warden had switched it on at 4 o’clock in the morning. For this she was held in solitary confinement and fined NIS 450.- (US$ 112).

Amne Muna was punished in her turn by being fined NIS 150.- (US$ 38) because she tried to intervene on behalf of Su’ad Abu Hamed. Lawyers’ visits are becoming more difficult. Lawyers have to ask a permission to visit at least two days before the visit would take place, and they may be refused. A few times the WOFPP’s lawyer, Taghrid Jahshan, was permitted to visit but on arriving at the prison the prison authorities, offering various pretexts, did not let her see the prisoners.

Petah Tikva Detention Center

Tali Fahima, 28 years old, from Tel Aviv, was detained on 9 August. She was interrogated by the “Shabak” (General Security Services). Her lawyer told the court that Tali had been interrogated for about 12 hours without any rest, with her hands tied behind her back. She had already been detained in May 2004, some time after she had appeared on television, stating that she opposed the assassination of Palestinian leaders and was ready to serve as a human shield.

The Israeli Military Prison for Women

Laura Milo, a conscientious objector who refuses to serve in the Israeli Army (IDF) was sentenced for the first time in March 2004 to one month in military jail. She was then sent to the “Military Commission of Conscience” which decided that her refusal to serve was based on political reasons and not reasons of conscience. She was therefore sentenced again in July to 28 days in military jail.

As reported in the August newsletter of Israeli women’s solidarity group Women`s Organization for Political Prisoners (WOFPP) P.O. Box 31811, Tel Aviv Tel and Fax: +972-3-5227124 E-mail: havakell@012.net.il.

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