[News] Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails

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Mon Jun 21 11:43:00 EDT 2004

The Situation of Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Jails

Talk by Ghassan Khader, London, 27 May 2004

Organised by Al-Awda PRRC London and SOAS Palestine Society

Chaired by Neil Gerrard MP, Chair of All-Party Committee on Refugees
and Member of the Joint Parliamentary Middle East Councils
Commission of Enquiry on Palestinian Refugees ­ Right of Return

Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to say thank you for your interest in
the case of Palestinian prisoners and for coming to this talk,
especially because I have come from Palestine and there people are
suffering under the harsh policies of occupation.

As you know, people in Palestine continue to suffer from the
occupation, the continued building of settlements, and the racist
wall, and the daily killings of my people, the arrests and detention
of thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Israel continues
to deny international and UN resolutions and our national rights.

In this talk especially I will give an overview of the condition of
the suffering of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails. I will
give current examples of some of the prisoners including my brother

Numbers of prisoners

I will start talking about prisoners ­ men, women, and childrens' ­
situation inside the prisons. I will also talk about the families
and their suffering.

When the Al-Aqsa Intifada started in September 2000, the numbers of
people arrested increased a lot ­ before the Al-Aqsa intifada, there
were 765 prisoners because many had been released. Now the total
number of prisoners is over 7,200. All the figures I will use in my
talk are from the Al-Asra Association, an NGO, and the Palestinian
Authority Ministry of Detainees Affairs.

The total number of prisoners is 7,200 ­ of these, 2,300 have been
charged, 3,700 are still waiting trial, and 1,200 are held under
administrative detention which is renewed regularly.

Because of these increased numbers, the Israelis opened new prisons ­
  some which had been closed and some were newly built ­ for example,
Al-Nakab, which was closed and now has 1,600 Palestinian prisoners
from the West Bank and Gaza, 600 of whom have not been charged and
are held under administrative detention which is usually extended
every 6 months. The other prisoners in Al-Nakab have been charged
and some are still waiting to be charged.

Harsh conditions inside the prisons

·         If we want to talk about the condition inside Israeli
prisons, it is like talking about harsh and dramatic reality for the
National Movement of Prisoners. This Movement continues to struggle
for the Palestinian people and their freedom, rights and

·         The Israeli Prison Administration creates the most
difficult and impossible conditions in the prisons. For example,
prisoners' representatives and leaders are often kept in isolation
and separate from other prisoners.

·         Prisoners are held under a tight regime and routine; for
example, every morning the guards come and count them, and then
prisoners are given breakfast. Again in the evening they are
counted. Prisoners who are not held in isolation are allowed out of
their cells for only up to 2 hours each day, and sometimes this is
also stopped for small reasons.

·         There are also often raids inside the prisons when
soldiers suddenly enter the cells and rooms and search and often
beat the prisoners, and throw gas.

·         Prisoners are kept 25 to 30 men in each room, and the
space of these rooms is 4 by 5 metres square, with the beds and
toilet inside the room. This makes difficult living conditions for
the prisoners in these overcrowded conditions; people cannot relax,
they are under big pressure all the time and this causes tension and
anger for some prisoners, and this is the aim of the Israelis. Some
prisoners are also put with criminals.

·         Usually the Israeli Prison Administration moves prisoners
from section to section inside the prisons, and also from one prison
to another, with no reason. The purpose of this is to put the
Palestinian prisoners under bad psychological conditions and high
levels of anxiety that is also part of the psychological war against

·         Prisoners also undertake individual or group strikes,
including hunger strikes, to protest against being held in isolation
or other bad conditions they are held in. This is the only way they
can take action to demand their rights.


Torture of prisoners is routine with hundreds of prisoners tortured
every year. This torture includes violent shaking for many minutes
which makes prisoners unconscious and throw-up and is a very
dangerous method which often has lasting health effects and has been
the cause of death of a number of prisoners. Prisoners are also
chained with hand-cuffs to small chairs by their hands and legs for
many hours and even days; lack of sleep; prisoners being deprived of
food and drink; prisoners are hooded with old sacks with bad smell
for days at a time; prisoners are kept in small cells completely
isolated from the outside world and loud music is played. All this
torture takes place against what the Israelis call `war on
terrorism'. For us this is our struggle for independence and against

In terms of numbers, 96% of prisoners suffered from torture; 82%
were exposed to the Shabeh position; 88% were forced to stand for
long periods of time; and 97% were deprived of sleep.

The UN Committee Against Torture has said that the use of these
methods of torture by Israel breaks the Conventions and
international laws which Israel signed in 1986 and in 1991 they
again confirmed this. However, since the start of the Al-Aqsa
Intifada in 2000, over 80% of prisoners have been tortured.

My brother Hussam, for example, was under interrogation for 90 days.
Many times during these 90 days he suffered from sleep deprivation,
violent shaking, being chained to a small chair by his hands and
feet for days. He has talked to his lawyer about the torture he
suffered. After his arrest in March 2003, the World Organisation
Against Torture (OMCT) issued an appeal expressing their grave
concern "for the physical and psychological integrity of Mr Khader,
given the excessive use of force during his arrest, and the fact
that he is being detained incommunicado, with the heightened risk
that he will be subjected to ill-treatment or torture that this

Hussam was adopted as `Prisoner of the Month' by Mandela Institute
for Human Rights in Palestine in August 2003.

               Prisoner being held in Shabeh position

Medical conditions of the prisoners

The Israeli Prison Administration intentionally leaves prisoners
often without proper medical care and treatment. Prisoners are not
always checked by doctors and are often given asprin as a treatment
for many things.

The lack of proper medical treatment means that many prisoners
suffer bad health and have different diseases which spread in the
overcrowded conditions. A number of prisoners have died as a result
of not good medical treatment ­ the most recent person who died was
Bashir Aweis from Balata Refugee Camp who died in Megiddo prison. He
died after interrogation and was about 30 years old, with two young

Women Prisoners

·         During the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the Israeli army arrested
tens of Palestinian women, and now there are about 90 women
prisoners. Of these, 3 were arrested before the intifada and the
rest since. 24 of them have been charged, and 65 are still waiting
for their trials. Recently many of the women prisoners have been
moved from A-Ramle Prison to Telmond Prison.

·         Women prisoners also suffer from humiliating conditions
and treatment.

·         Some of the women have had children inside the prisons.

Child Prisoners

During the Al-Aqsa intifada, over 2,200 children were arrested, and
of these, about 362 children are in prison at the moment ­ aged
under 18.

Child prisoners have also suffered from torture ­ with up to 83%
subjected to torture including thick sacks put on their head and
being held in the shabeh position.

And 12% of child prisoners when they are released continue to suffer
from physical and psychological problems.

The children are distributed between different prisons, 4 of which
are controlled by Mukhabart, and the others are run by soldiers and
the police.

Children as young as 12 years old can be charged under Israeli
Military Orders.

Child prisoners are also sometimes kept with adult prisoners ­ which
is against the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international laws
and agreements.

The suffering of the prisoners' families
The prisoners' families suffering starts from when their sons and
daughters are arrested. This usually happens in a very violent way
with the door being blown up, and the family put on the street with
children screaming and crying.

When their son or daughter is first arrested, families do not have
any news about them, and often have to wait for at least a month to
hear from the International Red Cross.

Since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa intifada, for the first few years
there were no family visits. Recently this is now allowed to some
families from cities like Ramallah. But families from Nablus ­ which
are the highest number of prisoners ­ visits are still not allowed.
The families have made an association and campaign for visits and
for their sons and daughter's rights.

Families who can visit the prisoners have to travel for hours to
visit each month, and can visit for about 45 minutes behind dark
glass screens. And visits are often cancelled because of curfews and

Prisoners have also gone on strike because of the conditions of
family visits ­ for example, they cannot touch their children and
cannot even see their families clearly because of the dark glass.

Hussam Khader

Hussam is a member of the PLC and the Chair of the Committee for the
Defence of Palestinian Refugee Rights. He was arrested on 17 March
2003 and has been detained since then in isolated conditions.
Contrary to international law, Hussam is being held illegal inside
Israel, and not the Occupied Territories. He was held for nearly one
year in solitary confinement after a long period of 90 days
interrogation. Full details of Hussam's case are on the website:

As an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hussam
Khader, like Marwan Barghouti, should have immunity from arrest and
detention, as outlined in the Agreements between the PLO and the
Israel government. However, the Israeli government does not respect
these agreements, especially when it relates to Palestinian
prisoners and the Fourth Geneva Convention. Hussam is known for his
commitment to the right of return for Palestinian refugees, to human
rights, as well as his statements in the fight against corruption.

A refugee himself, Hussam Khader is an outspoken advocate for
refugee rights and founder of the Committee for the Defence of the
Palestinian Refugee Rights, which insists on the right of return for
Palestinian refugees to be included in any peace treaty between
Israel and the Palestinians.

Hussam was the first to be forced out of his country because of his
role as a leader during the first Intifada when he was exiled on
January 13th, 1988. At 2 in the morning all the neighbouring houses
and the whole area were surrounded by the Israeli army. At 2.45am
they blew up the front door without warning and immediately opened
fire. There were four children living in the house, aged eleven,
eight and five years old, as well as nine months old. The soldiers
ordered all of the family out of the house, and arrested Hussam.

In May 2004, his trial was delayed for the 6th time, as the main
prosecution witness withdrew evidence, he said, was obtained under
torture. Hussam's next Court hearing has been set for 29 June 2004.
Hussam has been subjected to physical and psychological torture,
including sleep deprivation, interrogation for over 90 days, and
being held in solitary confinement for 1 year. During this period,
he has not had regular access to his lawyer, nor to family visits,
and, against international law, is being held inside Israel and not
the Occupied Territories. Hussam has been moved to 7 different
prisons inside Israel, and until a hunger strike for 9 days in March
2004 to protest against his conditions of detention, he had been
held in solitary confinement for a year.

In March 2004, the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Palestinian
Minister of Prisoners Affairs, and Fateh's leadership all issued
statements condemning the detention of the Palestinian parliament
members, Hussam Khader and Marwan Barghouti (www.freebarghouti.org).

Also in October 2003, the Governing Council of the Inter-
Parliamentary Union adopted a resolution expressing its deep concern
about Hussam Khader's arrest, his conditions of detention and the
lack of evidence supplied to his lawyers (see


Many Human Rights organisations have for many years documented the
human rights abuses and torture of Palestinian prisoners. In its
Annual Report last year, 2003, Amnesty International expressed its
concern about Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, especially the
more that 3,800 Palestinian prisoners who were tried before military
courts in trials ­ like Hussam is. According to Amnesty
International, these did not meet international standards, and that
ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees was widespread.

In a recent statement released from prison, Hussam Khader called
upon Palestinians and the world at large to pressure Israel to meet
their responsibilities and treat Palestinian prisoners with the
dignity and respect they deserve.

We Palestinians will continue to fight and to struggle for our
rights and our dignity. Despite all the things that have happened
and continue to happen ­ for example, the demolitions, the killings,
the invasions and the occupation - we do not feel tired.

Finally, thank you for coming and thank you for your interest.

Ghassan Khader is a founding member of the Popular Committee in
Solidarity with

PLC member Hussam Khader and Palestinian Prisoners
(www.hussamkhader.org). He is also Co-ordinator of the Committee
Representing Relatives of Palestinian Prisoners and Public Relations
Co-ordinator of the Committee for the Defence of Palestinian Refugee
Rights, Palestine.



1.      Sign the petition on Hussam's website ­ www.hussamkhader.org

2.      Write to your MP or MEP and ask them to write to the Foreign
Secretary and ask if the British Government, under its obligations
as a signatory of the 4th Geneva Convention, the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment (all of which Israel is also signatory to) can raise the
following issues with the Israeli Government:

·         The conditions of detention of Hussam Khader ­ his
detention inside Israel and not the Occupied Territories

·         To demand an investigation into the allegations of torture
that he has suffered;

·         His defence team's access to information on the evidence
again him;

·         To ensure that Hussam and other political prisoners have
full access to lawyers, heath services and family visits. Hussam
Khader suffers from severe spinal problems and has not received
adequate health treatment for this;

·         His right ­ and the rights of other political prisoners -
to judicial guarantees ensuring a fair trial ­ especially given that
Hussam is being tried under the military courts system in Israel.

3.      Write to the following people about Hussam's case, and the
conditions of all Palestinian political prisoners:

Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister: rohm at pmo.gov.il; pm_eng at pmo.gov.uk

Yosef Lapid, Minister of Justice: sar at justice.gov.il

Ambassador Yaakov Levy: mission.Israel at gva.mfa.gov.il

4.      Write to the media ­ Spread the word ­ speak to your local
media and political representatives about the over 7,000 Palestinian
political prisoners and the illegality of Hussam's imprisonment.

The Freedom Archives

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