On the occasion of Palestinians Prisoners’ Day, 2017, the year that marks 50 years since the establishment of the military courts which routinely charge and trial Palestinian civilians, including children as young as 12 years old, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) called for international protection of Palestinian political prisoners, an end to ongoing collective punishment by Israeli occupation forces, administrative detention, continued denial of fair trial, and illegal transfer and deportation of detainees. Since the occupation of 1967, an estimated 800,000 Palestinians, roughly 20% of the population, have been imprisoned by the occupying authorities. On this year’s Prisoners’ Day, Israel holds approximately 6300 Palestinian political prisoners, 300 children and approximately 56 females (including 13 female children) as well as an estimated 500 Palestinians in administrative detention (including 2 children), held for indefinite periods without charge or trial.
This year marks 50 years of torture of Palestinian political prisoners through a military system which has historically been endemic and various forms of physical and psychological torture and ill-treatment, including beatings, kicking, insults, being forced into stress positions, sleep deprivation, isolation and solitary confinement, threats of sexual violence, and threats of arrest of family members continue to date. Furthermore, they have been systematically denied the right to a fair trial, as well adequate health care, access to education, and the right to family visits. Palestinian prisoners and detainees also continue to suffer from a policy of deliberate medical negligence, as well as poor prison conditions, including overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and being kept in extreme temperatures.
Continued arrest and detention of Palestinians undermines the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people. These arrests target women, children, Palestinian Legislative Council Members, and civil society activists. With all Palestinian political parties being deemed illegal organizations by military orders, Palestinians continue to be deprived of participation in any form of civil and political activities. They are thereby criminalized for any tools of resistance – whether militant or not – against an illegal and protracted belligerent occupation by Israeli forces.
The issues of prisoners transcends one of individual human rights; it is also one of collective rights of an entire people – the Palestinian people, who continue to be deprived of the right to self-determination and sovereignty – basic fundamentals of international law. All Palestinian political prisoners – regardless of their alleged political affiliations or charges – are entitled to fair trial guarantees by international human rights laws.
Palestinian political prisoners are systematically subjected to torture and ill treatment with continued impunity – highlighting the need for the international community, as well as individuals, to intervene and call for immediate protection for these prisoners and detainees, long-denied basic rights.
While Palestinian prisoners are about to launch a hunger strike to end Israel’s ongoing violation of Palestinian prisoners human rights, including its rejection to fulfill its obligations in accordance to provisions of third and fourth Geneva conventions, the international community is asked to fulfill its responsibility through tangible and practical measures to ensure the protection for prisoners legitimate struggle and human rights.
PHROC therefore called on the International Criminal Court to immediately open an investigation into the case of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, and bring those who have tortured, extrajudicially executed, forcibly transferred, and arbitrary detained Palestinians to be held to accountable.
In addition, the Gaza based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) has been following up the prisoners’ cause, offering them and their families the legal aid they need, working on unveiling the Israeli violations, and calling upon the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations; and the international human rights organizations to follow up the Palestinian prisoners’ cause and rally international support to pressurize Israel to stop all its arbitrary practices against the Palestinian prisoners.
PCHR also called on European countries to activate Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which provides that Israel should respect human rights as a precondition for economic cooperation; and the UN bodies, International Committee of the Red Cross and international community to pressurize Israel to improve the detention conditions of the Palestinian prisoners, stop torture and open prisons to observers until prisoners are released.
To his part, Dr. Saeb Erekat, the Secretary-General of the PLO Executive Committee, today saluted the Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli jails for their acts of heroism and steadfastness in resisting Israel’s oppressive practices. Dr. Erekat said: “We call upon Palestinians everywhere to support the national movement of the Palestinian prisoners in their hunger strike against the Israeli illegal racist policies that gravely violate the international humanitarian law and the international human rights law”.
“After 50 years of occupation, Israel must immediately fulfill the long overdue rights of the Palestinian prisoners and accelerate their release for the achievement of peace. The Palestinian leadership will continue to exert its utmost efforts and urge the international community to put pressure on Israel to abide by and respect the rights of Palestinian prisoners enshrined in international law and conventions,” Erekat said.