Occupied Ramallah, 17 April 2013 - On Palestinian Prisoners Day, Addameer reaffirms its commitment to freeing the Palestinian prisoners and detainees in the Occupation’s prisons. Addameer reaffirms that the prisoners’ cause is the cause of the Palestinian people as a whole. Their struggle is central to the liberation of Palestinian land and the return of its’ people. It represents the frontline of peace and justice.
Since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, there have been more than 750,000 arrests of Palestinians, a figure which represents 20% of the Palestinian population of the occupied lands (including the 1948 Territories, Gaza, and the West Bank), 40% of the male population, and 10,000 females.
Since the Second Intifada erupted in September 2000, Occupation forces have arrested 78,000 Palestinians, among them 950 women, over 9,000 children and more than 50 ministers and Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members. Since 1967, Occupation forces have issued more than 50,000 administrative detention orders (both new orders and renewals), 23,000 of them after September 2000.
According to new data released in April 2013, Occupation forces are currently detaining 4,900 Palestinians, including 14 women, 236 children and 168 administrative detainees, including 8 PLC members. These figures include 183 Jerusalemites, 190 Palestinians from the 1948 Territories and 433 from the Gaza Strip. Approximately 530 of them have life sentences, and more than 77 have languished for more than 20 years behind bars. 25 of these prisoners have spent more than 25 years in prison and 105 were arrested before the Oslo Accords agreement in September 1993.
204 Palestinians have been martyred in the Occupation’s prisons, either as a result of torture, deliberate medical neglect, murder, or excessive beatings. Since 1 January 2011, five prisoners have been martyred in Israeli jails. 1 January 2011 coincides with the signing of an agreement between the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Israel Prison Service (IPS) to decrease medical services provided by ICRC to sick prisoners as well as to decrease the ICRC’s financial contributions to medical services, thereby allowing the IPS to evade its mandate to provide treatment to prisoners and detainees in its custody.
Data from organizations that work on Palestinian prisoners’ issues indicates that more than 1,000 prisoners and detainees suffer from various diseases. Among them are 16 prisoners residing in Ramleh Prison Clinic permanently. 85 prisoners currently suffer from a variety of disabilities, 170 prisoners require urgent surgery, and 25 prisoners suffer from cancer.
Today the fight continues as 4 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike assume increasing medical risks that endanger their lives. Especially at risk is detainee Samer Issawi, who has been on partial hunger strike for more than 262 days in protest of his re-arrest under Article 186 of Military Order 1651. Joining him is Ayman Abu Daoud, who announced his hunger strike on 14 April 2013; he was re-arrested after gaining his freedom in the last prisoner exchange. Continuing his hunger strike is Younis Huroub, who is protesting the Occupation’s policy of administrative detention, as well as detainee Samer Al-Barq, who started his third hunger strike in protest of his continued administrative detention. All of their lives are in grave danger.
These facts lead us to conclude that the Occupation’s detention policies – especially administrative detention – represent one of many forms of continuous and systematic collective punishment practiced by the Occupation, as well as some of the most flagrant violations of the 4th Geneva Convention. These violations constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity in accordance with the Rome Statute, which founded the International Criminal Court.
Imprisonment is one of the many policies of the Occupation that aims toward the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, the suppression of their cultural identity and the violation of their political rights, all with the overarching goal of removing Palestinians from history once and for all.
Addameer believes that the political compromise resulting from the Oslo Accords in 1993, rather than ending the occupation, further consolidated the Occupation, which now rules the West Bank according to 1,7000 military orders that control every facet of Palestinian life. The Oslo Accords ensured that Palestinians live only under a very limited form of self-rule and failed to secure the release of the Palestinian prisoners from the Occupations’ jails. Most importantly, the Oslo Accords relinquished the Palestinian right to hold the occupying state accountable for the crimes it has committed.
Addameer believes that now is the right time to change course, ending this period of acquiescence and submission. It is time to stop using the prisoners’ issue as a motivation to return to the negotiation table, to move past the provision of legal aid to the prisoners and detainees and to re-focus on the right of prisoners to be freed immediately. It is time to hold the Occupation accountable in the International Criminal Court and in countries that respect the jurisdiction of international law. These efforts should take place in conjunction with serious work on boycott, divestment, and sanctions against the occupying state. Finally, it is time for a boycott of the Occupation’s military courts, especially administrative detention hearings.
Addameer calls on Palestinian legal and human rights organizations to:
* Boycott the military courts, especially administrative detention hearings.
* Intensify joint efforts to bring international legal action against the occupying state using the mechanisms provided by the United Nations and human rights commissions.
* Improve joint efforts to expose the crimes of Israeli special forces in the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review Committees.
* Engage in advocacy and serious efforts to boycott and divest from the occupying state, both within Palestine and internationally.
* Establish an electronic database with images, video and written materials highlighting testimonies from victims of torture amongst the Palestinian prisoners and detainees.
Addameer makes the following recommendations for international organizations:
*Addameer calls on UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to work seriously on forcing the occupying state to respect its commitments based on its membership in the United Nations and its accession to the 4th Geneva Convention, as well as its ratification of human rights conventions. Addameer calls on Ban Ki Moon to ensure the application of these agreements on occupied Palestinian land, particularly in the cases of Palestinian detainees and prisoners. Addameer further calls on Ban Ki Moon to work seriously toward the release of all administrative detainees, children, sick prisoners, and Palestinian Legislative Council members currently in Israeli custody.
* Addameer calls on the UN Human Rights Commission to force the occupying state to allow international investigative commissions access to prisons and to focus on the conditions faced by prisoners. Addameer further calls on the UN Human Rights Council to launch a serious investigation into the complaints brought by Palestinian detainees and prisoners, especially those related to the crimes committed by the special forces of the IPS.
* Addameer calls on the International Committee of the Red Cross to carry out its mission to protect detainees in accordance with its international mandate to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners and detainees in accordance with international humanitarian law.
This Prisoners Day, Addameer is re-launching its international Stop Administrative Detention campaign in over 70 countries. The campaign includes demonstrations and actions in various cities throughout the world. Addameer has prepared factsheets and detailed legal reports in more than 12 languages to assist in the dissemination of information about the Occupation’s practice of administrative detention. (See Stop AD Website for more information.)
In honor of Prisoners Day, we say to our people and to our prisoners as our colleague Ayman Nasser, who was detained on 15 October 2012, once said: “I support the prisoners, even if the cost is my freedom.”