[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>
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
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
To end a mass hunger strike in its prisons
it eased this restriction in May last year
Israel promised to allow visits by parents and spouses, starting two
But children of detainees remained unable to visit their incarcerated
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
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."
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
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
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
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
"These practices are not in conformity with the Israeli Prison Service
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)
several detainees' children shared their experiences of the visitation
"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
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
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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