Urgent Action: Free Our Prisoners

Printer-friendly versionPDF version
31 March 2020

We call on our allies, partners, friends and comrades to join us in an urgent campaign to free all Palestinian prisoners in order to protect them from COVID-19, particularly in light of the increased restrictions on their rights by the Israeli Prison Service.

In light of the recent events detailed below and a long-term precedence of torture, physical violence, medical negligence and inhumane prison conditions, we are alarmed and concerned about the safety and well-being of Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

In early March 2020, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) halted all family and lawyers’ visits for Palestinian prisoners, citing this measure as a COVID-19 precaution. Furthermore, all trial proceedings in the military courts are postponed indefinitely, and Palestinians undergoing pre-trial detention or interrogation are not brought into court for their detention extensions, further deepening the violations against their liberty and their rights to a fair and speedy trial. Moreover, Palestinian prisoner’s legal representatives are barred from direct communication and only allowed phone calls with them, meaning that they cannot accurately assess the health and safety of the detainees.

In addition to this, on 18 March 2020, Addameer lawyers were informed that four Palestinian detainees under interrogation may have been exposed to COVID-19 transmitted by contact with an Israeli worker at Petah Tikva interrogation center, and who tested positive for the coronavirus. The four detainees were sent to quarantine at the al-Ramleh Prison Clinic. Later on, two of the detainees were released to their families in the West Bank without being tested, the other two after finishing their quarantine were sent to Israeli prisons. Furthermore, Palestinians continue to be arrested from their homes in the West Bank daily, and are immediately placed into quarantines.

Our growing concern for Palestinian prisoners and detainees during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic grows out of the systematic and routine medical negligence inside Israeli detention and interrogation centers. In 2019, five Palestinian prisoners died in captivity, three of them as a result of deliberate medical negligence, while hundreds suffer from chronic diseases that go untreated. Furthermore, the dismal conditions, including overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and poor nutrition, make the prisons dangerous breeding grounds for COVID-19. Prisoners have reported that there are new restrictions on purchases from the prison canteen, and they are not provided with proper hygiene and sanitation products, putting them even further at risk of the virus spreading.

This also comes in light of the IPS’s continuous refusal to install landline phones inside prisons as stipulated in the most recent hunger strike negotiations. The refusal to install landlines is clearly an attempt to further distance the prisoners from contact with their families, and on a larger scale, an attempt to fragment the Palestinian population.

Given the newly instated rules and regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has remained the only entity permitted direct communication and visits to Palestinian prisoners. Yet, the ICRC has not provided the families or the public with updates on the conditions of the prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly those in quarantine.

Therefore, we call on all people of conscious to join us in demanding the freedom of all prisoners.

Call to Action:

-        Take a short of video of yourself, less than one minute, express one or more of the listed demands for the campaign, and post it on your social media accounts. Use the hashtag #FreeOurPrisoners #COVID_19 and tag Addameer in your post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

-        Write and/or call the offices of the ICRC and ask them to fulfill their obligation in making sure Palestinian prisoners are protected, and to pressure allow Palestinian prisoners phone/video calls with their families.

ICRC Jerusalem office: [email protected], Tel: 0041-22-7346001, Fax: 0041-22-7332057 ICRC Ramallah office: [email protected], Tel: 02-2414030-1,  Fax: 02-2414034
ICRC Tel Aviv office: [email protected], Tel: (+972) 35 24 52 86, Fax: (+972) 35 27 03 70
ICRC Geneva office: [email protected], Tel: +41 22 734 60 01
ICRC Washington office: anelson@icrc.org, Tel: +1 (202) 587-4600, Fax: +1 (202) 587-4696

 

We demand the release of all Palestinian political prisoners to ensure their safety from the rapidly spreading pandemic, particularly those who are more vulnerable and more susceptible to the disease, such as children, female prisoners, elderly, the sick, and the injured;

We demand the release of all Palestinian political prisoners under administrative detention who are detained indefinitely without charge or trail;

We demand the release of all Palestinian political prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentences and/or should be released on probation, due to the over-crowded cells and sections of the prisoners;

We demand the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) ensure the protection of prisoners through applying the necessary preventive measures against COVID-19. Also, we demand the IPS maintain the connection of the prisoners to their families through unmonitored phone or video calls between the prisoners and their families; especially as family visits are suspended and the IPS continues to refuse install landlines in the prisons.