The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al-Haq, express their deepest concern regarding the attacks by the Israeli Army against the Jericho Prison on Tuesday the 14th March 2006.
On Tuesday, the 14th March 2006 the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) stormed the Palestinian National Authority’s (PNA) detention center in Jericho. The aim was to seize six detainees wanted by Israel, in particular Ahmed Sa’adat, claimed to be the mastermind behind the killing of the Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Ze’evi, in 2001, together with Fuad Shubaki, wanted by Israel on charges of smuggling weapons in Palestine and four others.
In practice, the prison was protected also by US and British monitors in the aftermath of the Ramallah Agreement, dating back to 2002, signed by the PNA and Israel as well as the US and UK. However, the US and Great Britain had warned the PNA that they would end their monitoring mission had not the PNA upheld the obligations implied by the agreement, including the guarantee for the safety of the staff at the duty station. The monitors eventually left Jericho on the morning of the 14th March 2006, leaving the prison exposed to the Israeli raid, which had already been announced. After nine hours of siege, in which helicopters, tanks and bulldozers were employed and missiles and tank shells were fired against the building, the prisoners surrendered and were arrested by the Israeli Forces.
The Israeli Military killed two guards and wounded of at least eight others, as well as destroyed the prison’s premises. Moreover, as broadly testified by the images of the operation, the detainees seized were subjected to degrading treatment, being stripped to their underwear and blindfolded.
The raid against Jericho Prison is a violation of International Humanitarian Law, in particular the Ivth Geneva Convention, by which those who are ” hors de combat ” by virtue of having laid down their arms, including detainees, are protected persons, and should therefore be protected against wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement (Art.147). By the same convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly is also prohibited. Indeed, in the assault on Jericho detention center, the Israeli forces destroyed not only a public property, but also a facility crucial for upholding the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Israeli authorities are therefore to be held responsible not only for these death but also for compromising the safety of detainees and staff of Jericho detention center, for the degrading treatment to which they were subjected during the attacks, and for the destruction of property.
In addition, US and British Governments should be held accountable for leaving the premises, being aware that leaving the premises may have resulted in the Israeli incursion and human rights abuses, and therefore infringing the principle by which all High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances.