[Ppnews] Israel bars children over eight from visiting Palestinian fathers in prison

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jun 11 12:04:02 EDT 2013


  Israel bars children over eight from visiting fathers in prison

Joe Catron <http://electronicintifada.net/people/joe-catron>
http://electronicintifada.net/content/israel-bars-children-over-eight-visiting-fathers-prison/12519 

10 June 2013

On 20 May, Obeida Shamali visited his father, Ahmad Abd Alraheem 
Shamali, in Israel's Nafha 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/nafha-prison> prison. It was the 
first time they had seen each other since Israeli forces captured Ahmad 
in August 2008.

"I was very happy," the seven-year-old said. He was sitting under a 
picture of his father in his family's house in Gaza City's 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/gaza-city> al-Shajaiyeh 
neighborhood. "Before it, I imagined how his face would look when I met 
him, because I hadn't seen him for such a long time."

A fighter with Fatah's <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/fatah> 
al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/al-aqsa-martyrs-brigades>, Ahmad has 
been sentenced to 18 years in prison by an Israeli military court.

Like hundreds of local children, Obeida had been unable to visit his 
father for years. In June 2007, a year before capturing his father, 
Israel banned all visits to Palestinian detainees by families from the 
Gaza Strip 
<http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/adri-nieuwhof/israeli-ban-family-visits-gazan-prisoners-violates-international-law>. 
To end a mass hunger strike in its prisons 
<http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/mass-hunger-strike-grows-despite-israels-best-efforts-repress-it>, 
it eased this restriction in May last year 
<http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/details-emerge-israeli-concessions-ended-historic-palestinian-mass-hunger-strike>. 
Israel promised to allow visits by parents and spouses, starting two 
months later.


    Promise broken

But children of detainees remained unable to visit their incarcerated 
parents 
<http://electronicintifada.net/content/hundreds-gaza-children-blocked-visiting-parents-prison/12353> 
for almost another year. Only last month, on 6 May, did Israel allow 
seven children --- all younger than eight years old --- to accompany 54 
other members of prisoners' families through the Erez checkpoint 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/erez-checkpoint>, which separates 
Gaza <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/gaza> from present-day Israel. 
Some 33 children have now joined four prison visits, according to Dibeh 
Fakhr, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/icrc>, which coordinates family 
visits to detainees with the Israeli authorities.

A recent report on the policy by the Israeli human rights organization 
B'Tselem <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/btselem> described the 
current visitation regime. "Visits are permitted very infrequently, only 
once a week on Mondays, and then only at one prison facility at a time: 
Nafha, Ramon and Eshel (Dekel)," according to the group. "As a result, 
each eligible inmate receives a visit once every three or four months. 
In contrast, inmates from Israel or from the West Bank 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/west-bank> who are held on criminal 
or security grounds may receive visits once every two weeks" ("Israel 
prohibits Gazan children from visiting imprisoned fathers 
<http://www.btselem.org/gaza_strip/20130520_prison_visits_from_gaza>," 
23 May 2013).

"We were all flying with happiness," Najah Shamali, Ahmad's mother and 
Obeida's grandmother, said about the news that their entire family would 
be able to visit Ahmad for the first time. "The whole family celebrated. 
Everyone obsessed about the visit and could hardly wait for it to come."


    "No justification"

But the visit might have been Obeida's last. Israel's new policy still 
bars Gaza Strip children aged eight or older from visiting their 
detained parents. And Obeida's eighth birthday --- on 10 July --- will 
almost certainly come before his family's next visit.

"These policies show that the main aim of the Israeli prison system is 
to destroy the well-being of prisoners," Rifat Kassis 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/rifat-odeh-kassis>, the director of 
Defence for Children International --- Palestine Section 
<http://electronicintifada.net/people/defence-children-international-palestine-section>, 
said. "There is no justification for imposing these restrictions on 
Palestinian children from communicating and visiting their fathers in 
Israeli prisons. Even the security justification Israel uses to justify 
its policies are not in line with its human rights obligations and 
cannot stand."

According to Kassis, Israel's restrictions on family visits violate not 
only its responsibilities under international law, but also its own 
written regulations. "Denying political prisoners 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/political-prisoners>, especially 
those who are from the Gaza Strip, from their visitation rights for 
prolonged periods of time and imposing restrictions on them when they 
enjoy this right, including putting limitations and restrictions on who 
is eligible to visit them, is a form of collective punishment 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/collective-punishment>," he said.

"The right of prisoners to receive visitors, especially near relatives, 
at regular intervals and as frequently as possible is recognized by the 
Fourth Geneva Convention 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/fourth-geneva-convention>.

"These practices are not in conformity with the Israeli Prison Service 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/israel-prison-service> instructions 
related to the right of visitation of prisoners. The IPS instructions 
reads that the prisoners have the right to receive family visits after 
three months of imprisonment, once every two weeks."

At the end of April, Israel held 511 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, 
according to B'Tselem. Many are detained for lengthy sentences. "Most of 
their children are [older than] eight years," said Osama Wahidi, a 
spokesman for the Hussam Association, a Gaza-based group for current and 
former detainees. "Very few are younger."

The Hussam Association campaigns around issues of family visitation, 
issuing statements and holding rallies at the ICRC. Many of its 
activities, Wahidi said, aim to draw the attention of international 
media and human rights organizations.

"Their positions are very bad," he said. "When [Israeli soldier] Gilad 
Shalit <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/gilad-shalit> was detained by 
the Palestinian resistance here in Gaza, every human rights organization 
talked about him. At the same time, most of them, and the international 
media, never mentioned Palestinian detainees. But they demanded that 
Shalit should be released. He was a soldier; he was holding a weapon; he 
was targeting Palestinian civilians."

"We don't have a magic wand to release all the detainees. That's why we 
are trying to find ways to talk about the suffering of detainees, their 
families, and their children. We don't have any other way."


    "Above the law"

At a weekly sit-in by detainees' families and supporters at the 
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 
<http://electronicintifada.net/content/gaza-families-demand-right-visit-prisoners/10207>, 
several detainees' children shared their experiences of the visitation 
policy.

"I send him voice messages through a radio station, and written messages 
through the ICRC," said Nisma al-Aqraa, the 15-year-old daughter of 
Mahed Faraj al-Aqraa. She has not seen her father, a fighter for the 
Popular Resistance Committees' al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, since 
his capture by Israeli forces in July 2007. Categorized as a "permanent 
sick detainee" in the Ramleh prison hospital 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/ramleh-prison-hospital>, where he is 
serving three life sentences, both of his legs have been amputated.

"I saw him behind a glass barrier," Hamze Helles complained. "I couldn't 
go inside." Hamze, who had just turned eight when Israel's policy 
shifted on 6 May, was able to visit his father Majed Khalil Helles, a 
fighter for Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades sentenced to five years, 
in Nafha prison on 20 May, through an apparent administrative oversight. 
It was Hamze's first visit since his father's capture by Israeli forces 
in August 2008.

"It doesn't make any sense to deprive a small child who will never cause 
any harm to Israel," Wahidi said. "It's not logical. But Israel doesn't 
care about its reputation. It feels like it is a state above the law, 
that no one can hold it accountable for its crimes. Nobody in the 
international community has shown otherwise."

/Joe Catron is a US activist in Gaza, Palestine. He co-edited /The 
Prisoners' Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag 
<http://shop.ihrc.org/the-prisoners-diaries-palestinian-voices-from-the-israeli-gulag-norma-hashim>/, 
an anthology of accounts by detainees freed in the 2011 prisoner 
exchange, blogs at joecatron.wordpress.com 
<http://joecatron.wordpress.com/> and can be followed on Twitter 
@jncatron <https://twitter.com/jncatron>./

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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