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Family Visits to Prisons

Israeli occupying authorities practice collective punishment against the Palestinian families who visit their sons and daughters in Israeli jails. They put as a condition the availability of a permit in order for families to visit their sons and daughters who were transferred to jails inside Israel after Israeli forces had finished redeployment in parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Such transferals violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the individual or collective transfer of protected persons from occupied territory.
 
Due to internal and external closure imposed over the OPT, Palestinian families must get permits in order to visit prisons inside Israel. Such permits are cancelled during political crises. Many people can not get such permits under security pretexts.
 
On 21 June 1996, Israeli occupying authorities issued regulations related to prison visits. Under these regulations, only relatives from the first degree may visit prisoners. Therefore parents, wife, husband, may apply to visit and 'brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons’, who are below 16 and over 45, may also apply to visit, those who do not meet this criteria cannot visit their relatives. Relatives from the second degree, friends, or colleagues are absolutely prevented from visits.
 
In 2001, prisoners protested against the revocation of permits and the closure imposed over the OPT. It is worth mentioning that visits may not take place unless they are organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Some visits had been organized by the ICRC for prisoners from the Gaza Strip during 2001.
 
During the visit families are separated from their sons and daughters by a wire mesh or glass barrier. Palestinian prisoners may not be given the opportunity to visit their families at home even in sad occasions like death or sickness. Israeli criminal prisoners are allowed to visit their families during such occasions, and no barriers separate them from their families during visits.
 
The Israeli Prisons Authority refuses to provide a telephone inside the prison. With the families and other relatives being prevented from visits for months, telephone provision has been one of the most urgent demands for prisoners.
 
During 2004, prison visits have been resumed in some Palestinian cities after they had been stopped during a nine-month prisoner protest in response to the replacement of the wire mesh that separates prisoners from their visitors with a glass barrier. However, permits are still required for visits and these permits are dependent on the political stability. With this glass barrier, prisoners have to communicate with their visitors by a telephone. The barrier also made it difficult for families to give things like books and foods to the prisoners.
 
Some of the cases documented by Addameer:
* 110 prisoners from Nablus detained in Askelan have been deprived of visits for three continuous years. Their last visit was in February 2001.
 
* Detainees Belal Abu 'Asbeh and Zahran Abu 'Asbehís mother had her demand to visit her sons rejected under the pretext that they are not her sons. Belal is a sick detainee who spends his detention period in Ramle hospital/prison. The mother had been permitted to visit them before.
 
* Two weeks ago, only three of 45 families in Jenin succeeded in visiting their detained sons and daughters. Those families were those of Osama Hanani, Hani Ghannam, and Majdi Abu Al- Wafa. Most of the prisoners from Jenin who are held in Askelan have not been visited since 2001. The families who could not visit their families include those of Mu’ayyad Jaradat, Bassam Tahayneh, Muhammad al- Sabbagh, Iyyad Omar and Hazza’ Shreim.
 
* There are 22-25 prisoners from the Gaza Strip in Askelan Prison. The visit that was scheduled to Askelan Prison on 16 June 2004 was cancelled on the grounds that there were no soldiers to accompany the bus that was supposed to drive families. Families had to wait from 6:00 am until 2:30 pm before they had been informed of this cancellation.
 
* Following are prisoners from Gaza deprived of visits:
Reyad Sa’ed Issa in Ohaleh Kedar Prison: His mother cannot visit him on security grounds and his father is sick. Muhammad Husni: He has been detained for 17 years thus far. His family has not been able to visit him for the last seven years. He is in Hadarim Prison. Hasan Salameh: His family has not been able to visit him for the last seven years. He is in Shatta Prison. Akram Salameh: His family has not visited him for the last four years despite a court decision that allowed them to visit. His family visited him four years ago upon a court decision. Ibrahim Baroud: He is held in Askelan Prison. His family has not been able to visit him for five years. Yaser al-Khawaja: He is held in Nafha Prison. His family has not been allowed to visit him for the last five years.
 
Ra’fat al-’Arouqi: He is held in Askelan Prison. His family has not been able to visit him for one year.
 
* There are 70 prisoners from Ramallah in Askelan Prison. Some were visited only once. The visit was in June 2004. Those who were not visited include:
Hasan Salemh, 20: He was deprived of visits for seven years. Mustafa Badarneh: He was deprived of visits for three years. Ibrahim al-’Aqqad Abu Hejleh: He was deprived of visits for three years.
 
* There are 30 prisoners from Salfit. Some of their families visited their sons during June 2004. following are some of the prisoners who have not been visited for years:
Samer Seif: He has not been visited for four years. Majed al-Dahdouh: He has not been visited for three years. 'Othman Musleh: He has not been visited for three years.
 
* There are 40 prisoners from Hebron in Askelan. Only one of them has been visited. Five of them are absolutely banned from visits.
 
* There are 10 prisoners from Bethlehem in Askelan. Four of them have been visited. Detainees Shaher Salem and Samer Afandi have not been allowed visits.
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