The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) warns of the grave situation across the occupied Palestinian territory and circumstances of high tension within Israeli prisons. Six Palestinian political prisoners, mostly serving life sentences, have managed to free themselves and seize their liberty four days ago from the Gilboa prison inside the Palestinian territory occupied in 1948.
Holding the Israeli occupying authorities responsible for the lives and safety of the freed Palestinian political prisoners, the ICHR warns of the Israeli infringements on the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
The Israeli Occupation Prison Service has stepped up or threatened to impose further repressive, punitive, and retaliatory actions against unarmed Palestinian captives in Israeli prisons. In addition to ad hoc search operations, the Israeli occupying authorities have relocated over 400 prisoners from the Gilboa prison to other facilities.
Repressive forces and special units raided prison cells and oppressed Palestinian prisoners held in several prisons, mainly the Naqab (Ketziot) and Ramon prisons. The Israeli occupying authorities also relocated 34 prisoners from the Gilboa to Ofer prison, reduced time for access to prison yards, deprived prisoners of canteens, and closed down some facilities, including laundromats.
Violating IHL principles, these and other punitive measures have prompted Palestinian prisoners to protest against arbitrary practices and retribution inflicted on them. Consequently, prisoners set fire to a number of prison cells, whose inmates had been taken to an unknown location, threatening to exacerbate the overall situation inside prisons.
As an extension of measures contrary to IHL norms, the Israeli occupying forces have carried out arbitrary arrest campaigns, targeting family members of the six freed prisoners. This comes in the context of collective punishment for acts these persons were not personally involved in. Article 33 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War provides that the punishment of a protected person for an offense they have not personally committed is strictly prohibited. Such punishment amounts to a war crime.
Against this background, the ICHR stresses the following:
Hold the occupying Power fully responsible for the lives of all Palestinian political prisoners, including the six prisoners it is prosecuting.
Call on the international community to provide protection to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. Relevant international conventions will be applicable to these captives as prisoners of war.
These are detained in Israeli prisons in contravention to the Geneva Conventions, which prevent the forcible transfer of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the occupying Power.
Prompt action will be taken to put an end to violations that threaten the lives and integrity of protected persons.
Call on the International Committee of the Red Cross to take urgent action to stop the abuse of prisoners and violations of their freedom guaranteed by the law on the backdrop of the escape of the six prisoners.
Call on the international community to provide protection to the escaped prisoners’ families and friends and put an end to the collective punishment imposed on them by the Israeli occupying authority.