[Pnews] Recent Deterioration in Detention Conditions: Suffocating Palestinian Prisoners

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 31 10:10:28 EDT 2018

Some of you may have heard about the recent escalation against 
Palestinian prisoners, precisely female prisoners, and some of you have 
not. For those who want to learn about the details behind this 
escalation, read the below facts.

  Deterioration in Detention Conditions: Suffocating Prisoners

It is not new for the Israeli occupation to selectively reduce the 
standard of conditions of detainment for Palestinian prisoners. Such a 
limitation in the provision of basic services is utilized as a 
punishment against the prisoners, many times the prison authorities 
claim it to simply be ‘regular procedure’. Despite such claims, the 
restrictions Israeli occupation authorities place on Palestinian 
prisoners are violations for several articles in both international 
humanitarian law and international human rights law.

In addition to these violations, the Israeli occupation authorities 
repeatedly carried out these restrictions to collectively punish prisons 
for actions they did not commit. Article 33 of Fourth Geneva Convention 
and Article 50 of the Hague Regulations prohibits the punishment of any 
individual for a crime he/she did not commit, and a violation of this 
article amounts to a war crime.

This paper will tackle the issue of the continued limitation of the 
provision of services and restrictions for Palestinian prisoners in 
Israeli prisoners and detention centers. The paper will focus on a new 
committee formulated by the Israeli occupation authorities in order to 
reduce the standard detention conditions as much as possible. For the 
occupation, such limiting is now referred to as the ‘depriving of 
privileges’ rather than as the denial of basic human rights.

*General Detention Conditions*

Palestinian political prisoners are spread around approximately 17 
prisons, four interrogation centers and four detention centers. All but 
one of the prisons are located inside the territory known as Israel, in 
direct contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In 
most of these prisons, there is overcrowding, a lack of very basic 
amenities, poor hygiene, humidity and a significant lack of fresh air. 
In recent years, the average living space per prisoner has dropped from 
3.4 to 2.9 square meters. Windows in prison cells are often covered by 
iron sheets, thus reducing the availability of natural sunlight. 
Prisoners held in al-Naqab prison live in unheated, threadbare tents 
that do not provide adequate shelter against extreme weather in the 
winter or summer.

Two Israeli Prison Service (IPS) policies with regard to Palestinian 
political prisoners deserve particular attention: the use of *isolation* 
for punitive purposes and *medical negligence*. Every year, dozens of 
Palestinian prisoners and detainees are held in isolation, for alleged 
reasons of state or prison “security.” The length of time in isolation 
that prison officials may order can extend from 12 hours to up to longer 
periods of six to 12 months, with court approval. Prisoners held in 
isolation are held in a cell typically from 1.5 by 2 meters to 3 by 3.5 

Israeli authorities also systematically neglect their duties to provide 
medical support to Palestinian prisoners in their care, as required by 
the Geneva Conventions. Medical problems are widespread, and range in 
severity from chest infections and diarrhea to heart problems and kidney 
failure. Although all prisons include a medical clinic, physicians are 
on duty irregularly and specialized medical healthcare is generally 
unavailable. Once they are examined, however, most prisoners are simply 
prescribed painkillers without any thorough medical follow-up. Transfers 
to hospitals for needed treatment may take place only after weeks or months.

Other than those two policies, the Israeli occupation authorities 
generally try to restrict many other basic services for Palestinian 
prisoners such as family visits and education. This has happened in 
wide-scale in 2008, 2011, 2014, 2017 and recently in the past weeks.

*Some Past Instances of Deterioration of Detention Conditions*

Palestinian prisoner’s detention conditions have gradually deteriorated 
over the years despite collective actions resisting such steps. Big 
changes in regard to detention conditions came in 2011 on the heels of a 
speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 23 June 2011. 
During this speech, announced a policy aimed at collectively punishing 
Palestinian prisoners for the continued incarceration of Israeli soldier 
Gilad Shalit. Prior to this speech, Israeli Prison Services (IPS) was 
already punishing Palestinian prisoners in different forms and for the 
same reason.

Since then the IPS has:

  * Canceled all prisoners’ access to university education, newspapers,
    and certain books from outside prison.
  *   Limited the number of TV channels available to prisoners to three
    Arabic-language channels.
  * Started shackling all prisoners’ hands and legs in transport to and
    from all visits and.
  * In some prisons, the duration of family visits has been shortened
    from 45 to 30 minutes, with children under the age of 8 unable to
    have physical contact with incarcerated parents as they were before.

Some of these restrictions stopped after some time and other 
restrictions are still ongoing until this day. For example, some of the 
ongoing restrictions are:

  * The ban on education;
  * Reduced TV channels for Hamas prisoners;
  * limiting the amount of money spent in prisoner’s canteens for Hamas
    prisoners (from 1200 NIS to 600/800 NIS a month).

This kind of increase in severity has reoccurred several times. Such 
instances include in 2014 after the kidnapping of three Israeli settlers 
in the West Bank and then the last Gaza war. In 2014 the number of 
Palestinian prisoners witnessed a major increase of around 1000 extra 
prisoners than the average. This did not only mean overcrowding in 
prisons, but also major deteriorations in medical and educational 
services. During this period several other privileges and rights were 
also restricted,  such as family visits, TV channels, ..etc.

  Another example comes in 2017 when prisoners staged an open hunger 
strike as mean to demand their basic rights and improve their detention 
conditions. The IPS collectively punished the prisoners through fines, 
isolating them, denying their family visits and banning them from 
meeting their lawyers.

*Recent Deterioration in Detention Conditions: Suffocating Prisoners*

On 13 June 2018, the Israeli Minister for Public Security, Gilad Erdan, 
announced the formation of a special committee with members drawn from 
the Israeli Knesset, and the intelligence community. The purpose of such 
a committee is to evaluate the conditions for Palestinian prisoners 
being held in occupation prisons and to determine ways in which 
conditions and can be reduced to a bare minimum, as stated by Gilad 
Erdan. The committee was meant to present its recommendations within 90 
days of its founding.

The recommendations are not yet published for the public, but actions 
have been taken against prisoners in recent weeks. Those actions have 
focused on three main areas: economic (provision of food, Canteen), 
education (confiscation of educational books) and privacy, with the 
installation of cameras at the prison that holds Palestinian women, 
Hasharon.  In addition to these three issues, Addmeer recently 
documented a lack of hot water in several prisons as well. Such 
sanctions are ongoing and will likely target other rights, such as 
family visits.

*Economy *

The economic exploitation of Palestinian prisoners can be monitored 
through their purchase of food and hygiene products from the canteens. 
Initially, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was 
responsible for providing prisoners and detainees with basic goods such 
as biscuits, coffee, tea, and cigarettes. Although there is no official 
documentation, according to prisoner testimonies, the prison 
administration established the canteen around 1973 through which 
prisoners would begin to purchase these products at their own expense. 
The ICRC ceased providing these items.

In 1993, as part of a larger wave of Israeli privatization, the Israeli 
government opted to privatize a number of services in the prisons. At 
the time, the government awarded Shekem a 10-year contract to run the 
canteens. Nowadays, the supplier is a private Israeli company, Dadash 
Hadarom Distribution Dadash.

By request, three prisons (Naqab, Damon, and Ofer) provided canteen 
price lists to Addameer’s lawyers. While the canteen supplier, Dadash, 
is required to have uniform prices across all prisons, we found that 
there were discrepancies in the cost of the same item in different 
prisons. Furthermore, the difference in prices of the same products 
between Palestinian cities and the Israeli prisons is significant[1] 

In addition to the canteens, the IPS is required to provide meals/food 
for prisoners, as documented by Addameer, it mostly comes in an 
agreement between prisoners and IPS in each prison. So the provision of 
meals/food is different from a prison to the other, though it concluded 
that almost all prisons have to buy their own food as well, because of 
the bad quality and small quantity of the meals/food provided.

Despite these facts, with the recent escalation against prisoners, there 
is a limitation in the kind of food provided, for example, in both 
Hadereem and Hasharon frozen food is not provided anymore not from the 
IPS or in the Canteen. Furthermore, with new Erdan special committee, 
prisoners at Hedarem and Hasharon reported to Addameer’s lawyers that 
the provision of food has been reduced to 3 kilos of meat and vegetables 
per-person per-month.


According to the IPS law about prisoner’s education, adopted in 2004 and 
updated in 2006, prisoners are allowed to obtain higher education 
degrees in prisons. This was implemented through the IPS with 
cooperation with specific universities. The IPS specified what courses 
allowed and what courses are not, this also applies to books. Some of 
the banned courses and books are biology, chemistry, physics, IT, 
anything that requires a drawing lap and anything that can harm the 
security of ‘Israel’. This meant that the allowed courses were limited 
to social sciences.

Nevertheless, as mentioned before, in June 2011 the Israeli occupation 
forces banned higher education for Palestinians in Israeli prisons. This 
was performed as punishment in response to the detainment of Israeli 
soldier Gilad Shalit, who was imprisoned by Hamas. Several attempts from 
civil society organizations were made to appeal the decision to ban 
higher education for Palestinian prisoners. The appeal reached the 
Israeli high court in 2015 and the decision was negative as the court 
ruled to maintain the ban.

As a result, education stopped in all prisons for a while. Then, 
Palestinian prisoners unofficially presumed to study and to gain higher 
education degrees by having several educated prisoners teach the rest in 
organized classes. However, this unofficial education became limited to 
only one prison, Hadarem, for the fact that Hadarem had a number of 
educated prisoners who became the educators themselves. As N. A. S.. a 
prisoner at Hadarem, told Addameer’s lawyer, “there are around 40 to 50 
Palestinian students at Hadarem prison. Some of them are doing their BA 
degrees and others are doing their master’s degrees.”

With the new Special Committee, restrictions have increased on education 
and access to books. On 3 September 2018, in Hadarem prison, around 1800 
educational books were confiscated. All educational books were 
subsequently banned, meaning that families could also no longer bring 
them in for prisoners.

Prisoners M. S. reported to Addameer’s lawyers that,

Last year, on 31 Dec 2017, an Israeli prison intelligence unit came to 
the prison [Hadarem] and took all of the books reviewed them and then 
after few days only returned some of them. Now it is happening again. We 
are only allowed to have novels but educational books are not allowed 
anymore. With the new special committee, each prisoner is only allowed 7 
books. Our library had over 5000 books one time, now it’s empty; it’s 
nothing. Those who want to learn or teach are dependent on their own 
knowledge and memory because they don’t have anything else.

Following on this, on 23 October 2018, Addameer’s lawyer visited Hadarem 
again. The prisoners there reported that the IPS informed them of new 
decisions to be implemented in the prison. Prisoners at Hadarem were 
also informed that the female prisoners at Hasharon will be transferred 
to Demon prison before 5 November 2018.

In addition to food and education, the IPS have removed all chairs, 
tables, games such as chess, and all other recreational items. As a 
result, prisoners stopped going into the yard to their recreational time 
and since 22 October 2018, they are returning their meals as a way to 
express their discontent to those new punitive measures. Furthermore, on 
23 October 2018 few prisoners started a hunger strike, Ayman Salhab, 
Mahmoud Qawasmi and Samir Abd al-Latif are on hunger strike because of 
the newly implemented measures, Kifah Hatab and Khalil Abu Eram are on 
hunger strike in solidarity with the female prisoners in Hasharon.


As part of these punitive measures, the cameras in Hasharon prison for 
women began operating again after being shut off for years following an 
agreement between the prisoners and the administration in 2011. The 
female prisoners naturally rejected the imposition of the cameras, and 
since 6 September have refused to go into the yard for their 
recreational time. As part of their protest, the prisoners sent a letter 
explaining that all their recreational facilities are located in this 
area and are thus inaccessible to them while the cameras are 
operational. On 20 September 2018, the Israeli intelligence service made 
the suggestion that the cameras be turned off for two and a half hours, 
while the prisoners are having recreation time, but this was rejected as 
being insufficient. After the women rejected this suggestion, they were 
threatened with being transferred to another prison, Dimon, and were 
informed that even the two and a half hours suggestion was no longer there.

After visiting Hasharon, Addameer’s lawyers added that female prisoners 
use the classroom in their recreational time. However, after a year of 
having no teacher for minor prisoners, since 3 October 2018, a teacher 
comes every Wednesday and uses the classroom for the whole day. In 
addition to this, the female prisoners reported that there is a shortage 
in the provision of food, specifically some kind of vegetables and 
bread. Also, the quality of the meals has dropped down as they reported 
receiving some meals uncooked, especially the rice. Other than this, the 
female prisoners stated that there is no provision of hot water since 
the beginning of September 2018, the IPS responds to the prisons inquiry 
about hot water by saying that they are looking into the situation.

Female prisons also reported that medical services are lacking, they 
complained from the bad behavior of the assigned Doctor at Hasharon, 
also the only treatment the doctor provides is an advice to prisoners to 
drink more water. Thus, female prisoners filed a complaint against the 
Doctor and they are currently waiting on the response. It is worth 
mentioning that there are 9 injured female prisoners and the number of 
prisoners who suffer from several other medical conditions.

Finally, the female prisoners expressed their concerns about the new 
restrictions. They also expect more restrictions specifically regarding 
family visits since some of their relatives did not receive entry 
permits to visit this month.

Addameer filed a complaint against re-operating the cameras in Hasharon. 
However, on 17 October 2018, the prison administrators at Hasharon 
replied relatively by stating that most Israeli prisons include cameras 
and Hasharon should be like the others. This statement did not can into 
consideration the fact that Hasharon is a prison for females who are a 
vulnerable group and require special treatment.

*Legal analysis *

As a starting point in regard to the conditions of prisoners, Article 10 
of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 
states that “[a]ll persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated 
with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human 
person.” Using the conditions under which an individual is being 
detained as a method of collective punishment is not in keeping with 
respecting the inherent dignity of the human person. Such forms of 
collective punishment are clearly prohibited under international law, as 
stated in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention law and Article 50 
of the Hague Regulations.

Additionally, in regard to the standard of hygiene and food, Article 76 
of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that prisoners and detainees 
should enjoy conditions of food and hygiene sufficient for maintaining 
good health.

In regard to adequate medical attention and treatment, Article 91 
emphasizes that “every place of internment shall have an adequate 
infirmary…” and that “Internees may not be prevented from presenting 
themselves to the medical authority for examination.” In addition to 
this article, Article 92 asserts that “Medical inspections of internees 
shall be made at least once a month…”. It is evident that the 
withholding of treatment, or access to a medical professional, is a 
violation of these specific provisions, and therefore a violation of 
international humanitarian law.

As for operating the cameras in Hasharon prison, other than it being a 
violation of Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and 
Political Rights guarantees all persons’ right to privacy, this act is 
also a violation of the Bangkok Rules. In specific, Rule 41 states that 
the prison authorities should “Take into account the generally lower 
risk posed by women prisoners to others, as well as the particularly 
harmful effects that high-security measures and increased levels of 
isolation can have on women prisoners.” Also, Rule 43 states that 
official visits should be taken to prisons “to ensure their [women in 
detention] mental wellbeing and social reintegration.” In the case of 
the Israeli occupation authorities, they did make official visits to 
Hasharon prison, however, it was not to ensure the wellbeing of women 
prisoners rather it was to restrict them and operate high-security 
measures that harm their wellbeing.

Both International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights 
Law (IHRL) provide for the right of detainees to education. In 
particular, the right to education for all has been recognized in 
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. ICCPR, ratified 
by Israel in 1991, emphasizes that “education shall be directed to the 
full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, 
and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental 
freedoms”. Article 94 of the Fourth Geneva Convention urges the 
“Detaining Power” to “take all practicable measure to ensure the 
exercise” of “intellectual, educational and recreational pursuits”. It 
further stipulates that “all possible facilities shall be granted to 
internees to continue their studies or to take up new subjects.”

The Israeli occupation authorities are claiming that all of these listed 
rights are privileges rather than rights. However, as shown above, 
prisoners have the right to be treated with humanity and dignity. They 
also have the right to enjoy sufficient conditions of food and hygiene, 
they have the right to education and the right to receive adequate 
medical services. The Israeli occupation authorities systematically 
violate all these rights and conventions. Detention conditions are 
increasingly deteriorating a year after the other.

On 4 September 2008, the European Parliament adopted a resolution 
calling on Israel “to guarantee that minimum standards on detention be 
respected, to bring to trial all detainees, to put an end to the use of 
‘administrative detention orders’, and to implement adequate measures 
for minors and prisoners’ visiting rights, in full compliance with 
international standards.” Addameer calls on the European Union to act 
upon their adopted resolutions and work towards holding Israel 
accountable for their continuous violations of international 
humanitarian law and international human rights law.

We also call on the international community to advance their engagement 
through abiding to their responsibility as third states and ensure the 
rights of all 5,800 Palestinian political prisoners.

Addameer continues to monitor the work of this new special committee and 
will report on any new restrictions and limitations against Palestinian 


[1] <#_ftnref1> For further information read Addameer’s report on the 
economic exploitation of Palestinian. 

*Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association*

P. O. Box: 17338, Jerusalem
3 Edward Said Street
Sebat Bldg.
1st Floor, Suite 2
Ramallah, Palestine
Tel: +972 (0)2 296 0446 / 297 0136
Fax: +972 (0)2 296 0447

Email: info at addameer.ps
Website: www.addameer.org

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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