Palestinian Prisoners’ Day

Issued by the Diplomatic Mission of Palestine, on the occasion of the Palestinian Prisoners Day.

The 17th of April marks a special and sad day in Palestine. It is the Palestinian prisoners’ day, to commemorate thousands of Palestinians prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons and detention facilities. The UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People argues in a statement;

“There is hardly any Palestinian family that has not been affected by the ongoing campaign of arrests, harassment and intimidation carried out by the Israeli occupying forces.  The arbitrary Israeli military law criminalizes legitimate protest against the occupation.  Palestinians are tried in military courts, which do not meet the minimum international standards of fairness, independence and impartiality.  In contravention of international law, they often are convicted on secret evidence, based on confessions extracted under duress or torture, denied the right to a lawyer, with children tried as adults.  Many Palestinians do not even get a trial.  They suffer in detention, sometimes for years, not charged with any specific offence.  These actions by the occupying Power directly contravene article 71 of the Fourth Geneva Convention”.

Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories in 1967, more than (850,000) of Palestinian citizens have been detained by Israel, the occupying power, among them were (15,000) female detainees, tens of thousands of children and more than 50000 administrative detentions, in addition to 65 ministers and members of the Palestinian legislative council.

Administrative detention is defined as the deprivation of liberty of a person at the request not of the judiciary but ordered by a military commander and based on “security reasons”. Under administration detention, no criminal charges are brought against the detainee and there is no intention of bringing him or her to trial. Administrative detention is an integral part of Israel’s military legal system throughout the 48 years of occupation of Palestinian territory and there are no signs that the practice will be discontinued in the near or distant future unless there is an international interference. The frequency of the use of administrative detention has fluctuated throughout Israeli occupation and has been steadily rising since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000, when it has specifically been used as a means of collective punishment against Palestinians opposing the occupation.

Detainees are held without trial and neither they nor their attorneys are allowed to see the “secret evidence” against them. This dangerous policy turned our political prisoners into hostages of the Israeli occupying security services.

The period of imprisonment in administrative detention is ranging from one month to six months. In several cases, the administrative detention can be renewed several times and may reach ten times, in this case the victims (men or women, young or old) may spend more than five years in prison without charges and trial based on the secret file. Palestinians targeted for administrative detention are mostly doctors, engineers, university academics, journalists, delegates in the legislative council. Khaleda Jarrar, elected member of the Legislative Council, Chairperson of the Palestinian Parliament’s Committee for Palestinian Prisoners was detained in the early hours of April 2, when several dozen elements of the Israeli Army assaulted her home in Ramallah.

In other words, Israeli administrative detention of Palestinians equals inhumane detention, it is a grave breach of the International Humanitarian Law and the 4th Geneva Convention and should be nullified as a first step for Israel to become a normal country which abides by International law.

Administrative detainee should be charged and face trial, or promptly released. Bearing in mind that the Israeli judiciary has not sentenced or convicted any Israeli officer from the intelligence agency who committed crimes against humanity and killed detainees during detention. On record at least 206, of the detainees have been killed while in detention since 1967. The last registered case of death was martyr Raed Aljabari from Hebron. The cause of death to these victims were as follows, (71) died as a result of torture, (54) died as a result of medical negligence, (74) died as a result of deliberate assassination after detention, (7) died as a result of direct shooting by soldiers and guards inside jail.

Currently, there are more than (6,500) Palestinian prisoners are still in Israeli occupation prisons. These prisoners are distributed in (22) Israeli prisons most notably are (Nafha, Remon, Asqalan, Beir Sabee, Hadareem, Jalbou, Shata, Ramlah, Damoun, Hasharoon, Hadarim, Naqab, Ofar and Majedo).

Among these prisoners are:

478 Sentenced to life imprisonment for one time or several times.
21 Female detainee ( 2 are underage)
200 Children under 18 years of age
480 Administrative detention

In a report published in 2013, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said “Each year, approximately 700 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17 were arrested, interrogated and detained by Israeli army, police and security agents.  In the past 10 years, an estimated 7,000 children had been detained, interrogated, prosecuted and/or imprisoned by the Israeli military”.  UNICEF confirmed that the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment of Palestinian children in the Israeli detention system was widespread, systematic and institutionalized, in violation of article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Israel cannot remain a state above the law, flouting the rights of prisoners and international humanitarian conventions. The issue of the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails is a political as well as a humanitarian issue of justice. There is an international responsibility to oblige Israel to respect the International Humanitarian Law in dealing with prisoners, and to force Israel to respect its provisions on the treatment of civilians under its occupation, including the Palestinian prisoners.

The deaths of prisoners under questionable circumstances should be promptly investigated by an independent authority.

Palestine as an observer state of the UN has joined many international conventions and treaties. Most notably the Four Geneva Conventions. Consequently, it is becoming an obligation for the high contracting parties to the Geneva Convention to meet and compel Israel to abide by these conventions and protocols.