Today, 17 April 2003, is Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. The number of Palestinian detainees increases as Israeli occupying forces continue to wage campaigns of arbitrary arrests and detentions against thousands of Palestinian civilians. Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails continue to be subject to wide-ranging violations of their rights and dignity. PCHR reiterates its call for Israel’s systematic violations of the rights of Palestinian prisoners to be stopped, and demands that Israel respect international human rights and humanitarian law on the rights of prisoners.
According to PCHR’s legal unit, approximately 8000 Palestinians are currently detained by the Israeli authorities in 18 prisons and detention centers throughout Israel and the OPTs, including 7000 who were arrested during this Intifada.
PCHR is particularly alarmed that the number of Palestinians placed under administrative detention has increased to at least 1400.
Numbers of Palestinian women detained by Israel has also increased; before the current Intifada, 4 Palestinian women were detained in Israeli jails, this number has now increased to 63.
The number of Palestinian minors detained in Israeli jails has also increased to 220. PCHR’s investigations reveal that these prisoners are regularly subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including poor detention conditions, in violation of Israel’s obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, including treaty law to which Israel is a state party. PCHR is particularly alarmed at ongoing reports of torture of Palestinian detainees, including minors.
In the past year in particular, the Israeli occupying forces have escalated their campaign against Palestinian prisoners, including the use of measures that aim to humiliate and degrade prisoners. Israeli practices against Palestinian prisoners include:
Since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada on 28 September 2000, Israeli occupying forces have continued to violate the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and continued, in particular, violations against Palestinian prisoners. Israeli occupying forces have denied family visitation rights, and access to lawyers from Palestinian areas.
The Israeli authorities re-opened Ansar 3 Prison (Kitsi’out) in the Negev Desert and transformed a number of military locations in the West Bank into detention centers.
Investigations conducted by human rights organizations have revealed that Israeli occupying forces used a number of Palestinian civilians as human shields in their campaigns of arrest and detention, in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. The Israeli military command also issued a military order enabling military officers to arrest and detain any person for 18 days without presenting him before a judge or allowing access to legal counsel.
In 2002, in an unprecedented measure, Israel sought to prosecute Marwan Bargouthi, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, in an Israeli civil court. This is the first time that a Palestinian political leader has been tried before an Israeli civil court.
PCHR condemns Israeli practices against Palestinian prisoners, including unlawful arrest and detention orders, deteriorating conditions of detention, reports of torture and other forms of ill treatment.
PCHR calls upon the ICRC and relevant international organizations to increase their efforts to ensure that Palestinian prisoners are able to enjoy their rights, and enable Palestinian lawyers to carry out their duties towards these prisoners.
PCHR supports Palestinian political prisoners, and calls upon the international community to take immediate, effective measures to ensure that Israel releases all unlawfully detained prisoners and ensures that conditions of arrest and detention are consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law.