The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), in a petition filed to the High Court of Justice today, March 20, 2003, demanded that the Minister of Defense and the IDF Commander of Judea and Samaria allow an attorney to visit a physically disabled detainee, confined to a wheelchair, who is being held at the Howara Camp. The detainee, Anan Abd Al-Fatah Labadeh, was arrested on March 11 and has since been held at the above detention facility in the vicinity of Nablus.
Hannah Friedman, Executive Director of PCATI describes, in a sworn affidavit submitted along with the petition, the events which led to the submission of the appeal to the High Court. According to the affidavit, PCATI was informed of Mr. Labadeh’s whereabouts on March 16. Requests by Ms. Friedman to schedule a meeting between Mr. Labadeh and an attorney were rejected by the Operations Officer of the Samaria Regional Division (based in the Howara Camp) who claimed that “Howara is a temporary detention facility and, therefore, attorneys’ visits are not authorized and family visits are, likewise, not allowed”. The officer added that “there are two soldiers at the facility who guard 60 detainees and there is not enough stuff to facilitate visits. Also, there is no appropriate room for attorney-client meetings”.
In a phone call with Dr. Abd Al-Labade, brother of the detainee, Ms. Friedman was told that there is a concern for the health and physical well-being of Mr. Labadeh who is paralyzed below the waist and cannot use the toilet or lie down without help and is in constant need of medication. Dr. Labadeh was detained along with his brother at the Howara Camp and reported that there are no appropriate conditions for the holding of detainees at the camp. There are, for example, no toilets in the cells and the detainees are forced to urinate into bottles, the cells have no light, ventilation or heat, there is a shortage of blankets, inadequate quantities of food and intolerable crowding.
In the petition, Attorney Gaby Lasky, PCATI’s legal adviser, claims that denying a detainee his right to meet with counsel is a severe violation of his basic right to do so and that the fact that he is being held in a temporary facility or that there is a shortage of manpower is no justification for denying a detainee his right to meet with a lawyer. Attorney Lasky stated that “denying the petitioner the right to meet with his attorney is a violation of his basic rights and is contrary to the laws of detention and the Basic Laws. We know that the security forces hold many Palestinian detainees in temporary detention centers and there is a genuine concern that their basic right to meet with counsel is being violated by the IDF. In this sense, this petition is an attempt to force the IDF to adhere to the rule of law”.
Hannah Friedman stated, “We must protect proper norms of behavior and protect the rule of law and democracy, particularly during these hard times. The High Court of Justice must limit the State in matters where the violation of human rights has become routine”.