Rights group demands access to Palestinian prisoners in Gaza

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) has been denied access to clients detained by the Internal Security Service (ISS) of the Government in Gaza. PCHR affirm that such measures violate Palestinian law and relevant international standards, including the detainees’ right to have access to legal counsel. PCHR is further concerned that access restrictions may be motivated by the desire to hide illegal practices against detainees, including torture and other forms of cruel treatment.

Since the beginning of 2009, PCHR has received at least 200 complaints related to detentions by the ISS, and PCHR has been granted power of attorney from detainees’ families. PCHR has been able to visit several detainees who were referred to Ansar Prison. However, PCHR has been denied access to at least 60 detainees who have been detained by ISS. PCHR have made numerous attempts to gain access to their clients; to date all of these attempts have been unsuccessful. PCHR has contacted a number of officials to allow its lawyers to visit their clients, but it has not received any response. On 17 June 2009, PCHR sent a letter to Yahia al-Adabsa, Head of Monitoring and Human Rights Committee at the Palestinian Legislative Council, in which PCHR demanded specifying official detention centers belonging to the ISS in accordance with article 11 of the Amended Basic Law, and article 2 of the Reform and Rehabilitation Centers Act #6 of 1996.

This is not the first time that PCHR lawyers have been denied access to clients in Gaza. PCHR lawyers were denied access to their clients between 20 February and 12 May 2008, and again between 21 July and August 2008.

In an interview shown on al-Aqsa Television on 8 July 2009, and posted on the web site of the Ministry of Interior on the following day, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Fathi Hammad, stated that all interrogation and detention centers were open to human rights organizations for supervision and legal access, denying that families were prevented from visiting their relatives. If families were in fact denied access, he demanded that they submit complaints.

In light of the above:

  1. PCHR calls upon the Government in Gaza to allow PCHR lawyers to visit their clients in prisons and detention centers in accordance with law.
  2. PCHR calls on the chief justices of First Instance Courts and Appeal Courts and the Attorney General to meet their obligations to check conditions in prisons and detention centers, to make sure that no one is illegally detained, to verify arrest and detention warrants, and to activate articles 205, 123 and 128 of the Penal Measures Law #3 of 2001. Arrest or detention warrants must be issued in accordance with article 126 of the Penal Measures Law #3 of 2001.
  3. PCHR calls for the release of all persons who are illegally detained. All necessary legal steps must be taken to ensure that detainees are granted all rights ensured by the law.

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