[Ppnews] Addameer: No peace agreement until political prisoners released

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Dec 22 13:22:22 EST 2009

Addameer: No peace agreement until political prisoners released
Report, Addameer, 22 December 2009


Palestinian political prisoners must be released, categories of 
"security detainees" must be cancelled and "political status" must be 
granted if peace between Israel and the Palestinians is to be achieved.

"Reaching the 'No-Peace' Agreement: The Role of Palestinian Prisoner 
Releases in Permanent Status Negotiations," a briefing paper from 
Addameer, examines Israel's failure to comply with the bilateral 
agreements regarding the release of Palestinian political prisoners 
held in Israeli detention for their involvement in activities related 
to the ongoing belligerent Israeli occupation of Palestinian 
territory. It concludes that prisoner releases can be instrumental in 
achieving a lasting peace, but only if prisoners themselves are 
recognized as political partners in the process.

More than 16 years after the beginning of the "Oslo Peace Process," 
Israel still holds 330 Palestinian political prisoners who were 
arrested before 13 September 1993, the cutoff date for arrests that 
determined which prisoners would be eligible for inclusion in 
subsequent releases. Approximately 95 of these political prisoners 
have spent more than 20 consecutive years in Israeli prisons.

Today, Israel holds a total of more than 7,120 Palestinian detainees. 
What's more, large numbers of Palestinians are still arrested by 
Israel on a weekly basis. The Israeli military judicial system 
imposed on the occupied territory, criminalizes every aspect of 
Palestinian life and continues to de-politicize Palestinian national 
aspirations. In policy and in practice, Palestinian activities 
against the military occupation are never deemed "political" by 
Israel -- and acts that would or could constitute "political 
offenses" have never been defined.

In a negotiated peace settlement, amnesties are often a necessary 
condition for putting an end to a conflict. Prisoners often play a 
central role in post-conflict politics and can be instrumental in 
addressing past grievances and in seeking justice and reconciliation. 
Israeli authorities however, have remained unwilling to explore a 
shift in discourse regarding the identification of "political 
offenses" or to even acknowledge Palestinian political motivations. 
To the contrary, those whom in any other post-conflict situation 
would become partners in peace are still considered "security," 
rather than "political" detainees. Moreover, Israeli legislation and 
court decisions have long enabled the State to hold detainees as 
"bargaining chips," held for their potential value in hostage or 
political negotiations, disregarding their status as political actors 
and denying them fundamental human rights protections.

Addameer contends that Israel has systematically failed to act in 
accordance with many of its obligations under the Oslo Accords and 
related Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements, particularly in regards 
to prisoner releases. Instead, Israel treats the issue as a public 
relations opportunity and a means to achieve political gains. Working 
within such constraints, the Palestinian leadership has been forced 
to negotiate with the Israeli government over the numbers of 
prisoners included in releases, and has failed to develop a strategy 
to challenge the military courts system in the Occupied Palestinian 
Territories (OPT) that defines all Palestinian resistance to Israeli 
occupation as "security offenses." Action is therefore needed at both 
domestic and international levels to ensure Israeli respect for its 
obligations towards Palestinian political prisoners under the 
agreements it has signed. Such pressure must also focus on compliance 
with requirements under international law with regards to the ongoing 
arrest, interrogation, trial and detention of thousands of 
Palestinian political actors in the OPT.

Should permanent status negotiations resume, Addameer calls on the 
international community, and all actors involved in the 
Israeli-Palestinian peace process, to put all the necessary pressure 
on the government of Israel to:

    * Release all Palestinian and Arab political prisoners arrested 
before 13 September 1993, in accordance with previous agreements;
    * Release all Palestinian prisoners arrested by Israel in 
relation to their activities opposing the occupation without any 
pre-conditions, thus canceling previously defined categories of 
prisoners in Oslo II and effectively creating one category of 
"political prisoners";
    * Create a joint committee to define "political offenses" and set 
a timeline for future prisoner releases; and,
    * Draft all necessary provisions to prevent future arbitrary 
arrests of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory and 
their unlawful transfer to prisons inside Israel.

Most importantly, Addameer calls on the Palestine Liberation 
Organization to ensure that resolving the issue of Palestinian 
prisoners is set as a condition precedent for the re-launch of 
permanent status negotiations and remains a top priority throughout 
any renewed peace process.

the briefing paper [PDF]

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