Stop the criminal practices of Israel against Palestinian prisoners!
On Palestinian Prisoners' Day, MPPM expresses its solidarity and denounces the criminal practices of the State of Israel in its treatment of Palestinian political prisoners - which do not exclude women and children - with arrogant disregard for international law, international humanitarian law and human rights conventions.
17th April was established as Palestinian Prisoners' Day by the Palestinian National Council in 1974 to commemorate the thousands of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and to support their legitimate right to freedom. This year, the date coincides with a brutal escalation of the Israeli occupation's aggression against the Palestinian people, translated so far by a hundred deaths and many hundreds of arrests.
According to information from Addameer, Israel currently has 4,900 Palestinian political prisoners in its jails, of which 160 are children and 30 are women. There are 1016 in administrative detention, without trial or charge. 400 prisoners are from Jerusalem, 200 from Gaza and 150 from Israel. Four are members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. 554 are serving life sentences. There are still 23 prisoners from before the signing of the Oslo Accords, which assumed the release of all Palestinian political prisoners.
Two legal systems
In the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967, published in March 2022, it states, "At the heart of Israel’s settler-colonial project is a comprehensive dual legal and political system which provides comprehensive rights and living conditions for the Jewish Israeli settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, while imposing upon the Palestinians military rule and control without any of the basic protections of international humanitarian and human rights law."
According to the UN Special Rapporteur, Israel has imposed a military legal system in the West Bank that applies to Palestinians but not to Jewish settlers, with Palestinian lives governed by more than 1,800 military orders. "The military legal system is presided over by Israeli military judges, trials are conducted in Hebrew (which many Palestinians detainees do not speak), it offers very few of the procedural and substantive protections of a purposive criminal legal system, the prisoners’ lawyers are significantly restricted in their access to evidence, and the conviction rate is over 99 percent."
The application of two legal systems was one of the factors Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and B'Tselem relied on to support evidence of the practice of apartheid by the State of Israel. Apartheid is considered a crime against humanity by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Administrative detention is a procedure that allows the Israeli military to detain prisoners indefinitely based on alleged secret information, without bringing them to trial or charging them. Israel has vulgarised the use of administrative detention, applying it almost exclusively to Palestinians.
Addameer, which is leading a campaign for an end to administrative detention, clarifies: "Although international human rights law permits some limited use of administrative detention in emergency situations, the authorities are required to follow basic rules for detention, including a fair hearing at which the detainee can challenge the reasons for his or her detention. Moreover, to use such detention, there must be a public emergency that threatens the life of the nation, and detention can only be ordered on an individual, case-by-case basis without discrimination of any kind. (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9)."
At present there are 1016 Palestinians in administrative detention, more than twice as many as a year ago. In 2022 Israel issued 2409 administrative detention orders, between new orders and renewals.
In 2013 UNICEF published the report Children in Israeli Military Detention, which concluded that "the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process." The report included 38 recommendations aimed at bringing the system closer to compliance with international law.
In the ten years since the report's publication, Military Court Watch (MCW) - an organisation that monitors the treatment of minors subject to Israeli military detention - has collected more than 1,000 testimonies from minors detained by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank and noted that "based on this body of evidence and court observations, it appears that 97 percent of UNICEF's recommendations remain substantially unimplemented."
UNICEF recommendations ignored by Israel include a ban on detention at night, mandatory notification upon arrest, a ban on the use of handcuffs and blindfolds, a ban on physical violence, a ban on solitary confinement, the presence of a lawyer and a family member during interrogation, and a ban on transfer out of the occupied Palestinian territory.
In its 2022 Status Report, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) states that every year it receives dozens of complaints of physical and psychological torture carried out by interrogators from the Shin Bet, the Israeli security service. Torture methods include sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme heat or cold, threats, sexual harassment and humiliation based on religion. There are also reports of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by the police and prison services.
According to the PCATI 1,400 complaints of torture by the Shin Bet have been submitted to the relevant department of the Israeli Ministry of Justice since 2001. Of these, only three were investigated and there were no indictements. The justification for filing the complaints is that "there is no evidential basis supporting the interrogee’s version". However, only a tiny percentage of interrogations are recorded, the recordings are not kept and expert opinions based on the principles of the Istanbul Protocol are systematically ignored.
The Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) prohibit the transfer of populations from occupied territories to the territory of the occupier. However, according to Israeli Prison Service data cited by Military Court Watch (MCW), 70% of Palestinian children and 80% of Palestinian adults detained were illegally transferred to prisons in Israel.
According to official data, 53% of Palestinian children detained in 2013 were transferred, increasing that figure to 71% by December 2022. It is estimated that more than 22,000 Palestinian children and 625,000 adults have been illegally transferred since June 1967.
The MCW recalls that the ICC Prosecutor's Office is in possession of evidence relating to the illegal transfer of Palestinian children from the occupied West Bank to prisons in Israel since 15 March 2015. These children are protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, with the same status that led the ICC to issue arrest warrants for two Russian citizens allegedly responsible for the transfer of Ukrainian children to the Russian Federation. However, there has been no ICC initiative targeting Israelis responsible for the forcible transfer of Palestinians.
On another front, Palestinian human rights organisations have reported to the UN that Israel has been carrying out large-scale transfers of Palestinian prisoners between Israeli prisons,. This is a retaliatory measure which can be considered collective punishment.
Collective punishment is prohibited "at any time and in any place, whether committed by civilian or military agents" by the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol, which stipulate that "no protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed".
Illness and death
Addameer accuses the Israeli occupation authorities of violating international obligations related to the protection and provision of care for Palestinian prisoners suffering from illness. The number of sick Palestinian prisoners in Israeli occupation prisons is currently estimated to be around 600, with more than 200 prisoners with chronic illnesses and 24 prisoners diagnosed with cancer and other serious diseases.
The accusations of medical negligence are backed by the Commission for Detainee and Former Detainee Affairs following the recent death of Ahmad Abu Ali. According to the Commission, since 1967 the total number of Palestinian prisoners who have died in Israeli occupation prisons has reached 235.
Rights organisations said in a joint report to the United Nations that specialist doctors, except dentists, are not regularly available and over-the-counter painkillers are administered as remedies for almost all health problems.
Aggravating the accusations of medical negligence, Israel continues to retain the bodies of Palestinians who have died in its prisons. At present there are eleven dead Palestinians in that situation.
On Palestinian Prisoners' Day 2023, the MPPM:
- Expresses its full solidarity with all Palestinians, and in particular with those deprived of freedom and those who are victims of the aggressions of the occupier;
- Condemns the practices of the State of Israel in its treatment of Palestinian political prisoners, in defiance of international law, international humanitarian law and human rights;
- Calls for the immediate release of Palestinian prisoners in administrative detention;
- Condemns the silence of the Portuguese government and the European bodies in the face of Israel's systematic violations of the rights of Palestinian prisoners;
- Calls on the international community to use all the means at its disposal to put an end to the impunity of the State of Israel in its systematic violations of the rights of Palestinians.
17 April 2023
The MPPM National Directorate