[Pnews] Palestinian Prisoners and Detainees in the Face of Apartheid

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Apr 17 10:30:40 EDT 2021


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Palestinian
Prisoners and Detainees in the Face of Apartheid
April 17, 2020
------------------------------

The Israeli occupation and apartheid regime have not ceased their
persecution and detention of Palestinians, even as COVID-19 spread across
the occupied Palestinian territory. In 2020, the Israeli Occupying Forces
arrested 4,634 Palestinians, among them 543 children and 128 women, in
addition to issuing 1,114 administrative detention orders.

Moreover, the occupation authorities introduced a set of measures that
exacerbate Palestinian prisoners’ conditions under the pretext of
preventing the spread of COVID-19: most notably, the isolation of
Palestinian prisoners from the outside world by banning visits by their
lawyers and families. Conversely, and paradoxically, prison special forces
continue to forcibly break into prisoners’ sections, posing a danger to
prisoners by increasing their likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 during
these incursions.

By the end of March 2021, the number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees
reached 4,450, including 37 women, 140 children, and 440 administrative
detainees. Among them are 15 journalists, hundreds of university students,
and ten Palestinian Legislative Council members.

Palestinian prisoners continue to be subjected to deliberate medical
negligence. Many fall victims to this policy and threaten their lives, as
was the case with Kamal Abu Wa’ar, who suffered from cancer and contracted
COVID-19. Israeli occupation authorities deliberately prolong providing
healthcare to Palestinian prisoners, further exacerbating their health
conditions, particularly sick prisoners transferred to Ramleh prison
clinic, where about 14-16 prisoners stay permanently suffering from poor
health and living conditions. In 2020, four Palestinian prisoners were
martyred in prison—Nour El-Deen Al-Barghouthi, Sa’ad Al-Gharabili, Daoud
Al-Khatib, and Kamal Abu Wa’ar. Since 1967 and to this day, the Israeli
occupation authorities continue to withhold the bodies of seven martyred
detainees.

Following past years, Palestinian prisoners and detainees faced various
occupation policies, most notably arbitrary administrative detention,
leading 11 detainees to go on hunger strike to protest this policy. Several
other prisoners joined the hunger strike to protest solitary confinement,
which is enacted against the prisoners in inhuman conditions.
*Isolating Palestinian Prisoners under the pretext of COVID-19 Precautions*

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Israeli occupation authorities have
imposed complete isolation on Palestinian prisoners and detainees. After
declaring a state of emergency, detainees were banned from visits by their
lawyers and families. The Israeli Prison Service implemented further
arbitrary practices and decisions to impose greater repression and control
over the prisoners, the most prominent of which has been halting the
transfer of prisoners to Israeli military courts for trial. Instead,
sessions are held via video conferences, where procedures are marred by
clear violations of the right to a fair trial. Besides denying detainees'
confidential meetings with their lawyers, trials via videoconferencing
often lead to issues where the detainee cannot hear or understand the
ongoings of the trial session. Moreover, the lack of precise translation of
the proceedings means that detainees lose their right to understand the
nature of the charges and evidence presented against them during the
session.

The grave violations of Israeli military courts of the rights of detainees
is not a recent matter. Since their establishment, Israeli military courts have
proven to become an inseparable part of the Israeli apartheid apparatus
exercising unjust and illegal practices against Palestinians. The change in
procedures following the declaration of the state of emergency further
elucidates these violations’ systemic nature, confirming these courts’
integral role.

Also, prison conditions continue to be inhumane and do not align with the
bare minimum of adequate living standards. Prisoners and detainees suffer
from severe overcrowding, further compounding the vulnerability of
Palestinian prisoners and detainees.Initial preventative measures taken by
the Israeli Prison Service included the distribution of soap and small
containers of chlorine to prisoners, in addition to the sterilization of
cells and a reduction of interactions between prison guards and prisoners.
Nonetheless, these minimal measures failed to prevent the spread of the
virus between prisoners through prison guards and interrogators.

Since the spread of COVID-19, nearly 368 prisoners have been infected
across various detention and interrogation centers. The highest numbers
being reported in Gilboa, Negev (Ketziot), Ramon, and Ofer prison. In
detention centers such as Etzion and Huwara, Palestinian detainees are
subjected to harsh conditions. The Occupying Forces quarantined new
detainees in filthy cells, with inadequate food (and the lack thereof),
along with dirty blankets (and the additional lack thereof) in the face of
extreme cold, before transferring them to prison. Furthermore, detainees
were not provided with hygiene products such as soap, toothbrushes, and
towels.
*Palestinian Prisoners and Detainees against a Military Judicial System*

Israeli military courts display a significant dependency on the discretion
of the Israeli government and intelligence agencies, which has effectively
transformed the judicial system into a tool of the occupation to legalize
Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. This impartiality includes
confirming administrative detention orders without a real cause for arrest,
approving the unnecessary renewal of administrative detention orders, and
issuing unusually long sentences against Palestinians.

Military judges’ nominal role highlights military courts’ arbitrariness and
the extent of the courts’ violation of fundamental fair trial guarantees,
such as the detainees’ right to know the nature of the charges brought
against them. In administrative detention, detainees are arrested without
knowing the nature of the charges presented against them under the pretexts
of “secret files” that the lawyer or the detainee cannot access. This
violates their right of defense, as the lawyer, denied access to “secret”
evidence, is rendered unable to present an effective defense.

To further compound upon the military courts’ grave violations, military
courts avoid evidence of torture in collusion with intelligence services,
the military prosecution, and the broader apartheid system. In recent
times, and in light of the increasing practice of torture against
Palestinian detainees, Israeli military judges, approve the extension of
detention of detainees subjected to torture, despite their acquaintance
with the physical evidence of torture on the bodies of detainees, and
despite detainees’ verbal testimonies of harsh interrogating conditions.
Such negligence and action grant further legitimacy to interrogators’ use
of physical and psychological torture.

Most recently, the Israeli Attorney General, claiming a lack of an
evidentiary basis for criminal charges, closed an investigation against
several Shin Bet interrogators in the case of the use of torture during the
interrogation of Samer Arbeed. This decision is seen as permitting the use
of torture during the interrogation of Palestinian detainees without fear
of accountability and the Israeli occupation’s bound by the use of torture
despite the absolute prohibition under the UN Convention Against Torture
(CAT), signed by Israel nearly 30 years ago. The regime continues to be
based on torture, repression, and persecution without any form of
accountability.

Accountability does not only fall on those who carry out the act directly
but also on those who "fail to take all necessary and reasonable measures
within his or her power to prevent or repress their commission or to submit
the matter to the competent authorities for investigation and prosecution.
Through the International Criminal Court, a new phase of prosecution and
legal accountability against those responsible for heinous crimes is
provided, allowing an opportunity to attain justice for Palestinian victims
of torture.

Beyond the horrific and crimes mentioned above, the Israeli apartheid
regime continues to criminalize any acts of resistance to the occupation,
such as the criminalization of student organizations and youth groups that
engage in union, volunteer, or social-cultural activities. The most recent
example is the trials of students alleged to have been members of the
“Democratic and Progressive Student Pole” at Birzeit University, a
now-banned organization under Israeli military orders, with prison
sentences ranging from 12 to 16 months, in flagrant violation of the
individual right to union and student activities.

The crimes of the Israeli apartheid regime increase over time, legislating
itself to claim a more “legal” form, as the world stays silent, neglecting
to expose these practices or ensuring accountability or to work to
eliminate this racist regime that stands in front of the Palestinian
people’s right to self-determination and freedom from occupation.

Therefore, the time has come for the international community to take the
necessary steps to declare this occupation, and all its policies and
practices, an illegal reality that must end immediately, along with an end
to prosecuting Palestinian civilians in military courts. The Palestinian
people’s right to self-determination must be guaranteed, and the occupying
power must be held accountable for its ongoing crimes against the
Palestinian people.
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