On the occasion of Palestinians Prisoners’ Day, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) calls for an end to ongoing collective punishment by Israeli occupation forces in the form of mass arrest campaigns, rapidly increasing use of administrative detention, continued denial of fair trial, and illegal transfer and deportation of detainees. Since the occupation of 1967, an estimated 800,000 Palestinians, roughly 20% of the population, have been imprisoned by the occupying authorities. On this year’s Prisoners’ Day, Israel holds over 7000 Palestinian political prisoners, over 400 children and approximately 60 women, as well as 700 Palestinians in administrative detention (including 6 children), held for indefinite periods without charge or trial.
Israeli torture of Palestinian political prisoners has historically been endemic and various forms of physical and psychological torture and ill-treatment, including beatings, kicking, insults, being forced into stress positions, sleep deprivation, isolation and solitary confinement, threats of sexual violence, and threats of arrest of family members continue to date. Furthermore, they have been systematically denied the right to a fair trial, as well adequate health care, access to education, and the right to family visits. Palestinian prisoners and detainees also continue to suffer from a policy of deliberate medical negligence, as well as poor prison conditions, including overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and being kept in extreme temperatures.
Continued arrest and detention of Palestinians undermines the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people. These arrests target women, children, Palestinian Legislative Council Members, and civil society activists. With all Palestinian political parties being deemed illegal organizations by military orders, Palestinians continue to be deprived of participation in any form of civil and political activities. They are thereby criminalized for any tools of resistance – whether militant or not – against an illegal and protracted belligerent occupation by Israeli forces.
The issues of prisoners transcends one of individual human rights; it is also one of collective rights of an entire people – the Palestinian people, who continue to be deprived of the right to self-determination and sovereignty – basic fundamentals of international law. All Palestinian political prisoners – regardless of their alleged political affiliations or charges – are entitled to fair trial guarantees by international human rights laws. Moreover, punishment of detainees’ families in forms of punitive houses demolition, prevention of and/or arbitrary restrictions on visits, humiliation and ill treatment and denial of prisoners’ relatives freedom of movement within and outside of Palestine, constitutes a severe Israeli retributive practice.
Palestinian political prisoners are systematically subjected to torture and ill treatment with continued impunity – highlighting the need for the international community, as well as individuals, to intervene and call for immediate protection for these prisoners and detainees, long-denied basic rights.
In recent events, Israel has carried out mass arrest campaigns since October 2015, following the renewal of large-scale demonstrations across the Occupied Territories. The latest escalation in violence unfolds against the backdrop of unrelenting Israeli land confiscation and settlement construction, accompanied by ongoing violence and intimidation by Israeli soldiers and armed settlers.
The current escalation has witnessed an increase in extrajudicial executions of Palestinians, many of whom, video recordings and eye witness accounts indicate, posed no threat to the lives of others. The frequency of such incidents suggests a shoot-to-kill policy as well as excessive lethal force in contravention with international law, and with continued impunity. Furthermore, the bodies of extrajudicially executed Palestinians continue to be withheld by Israeli authorities as a tool of collective punishment. This practice is gravely humiliating and degrading to the families of the deceased, who are then denied their rights to practice burial in accordance with their own religious and traditional norms. Furthermore, the practice of withholding bodies obstructs the possibility of conducting an investigation regarding the circumstances of the killings. Currently, the Israeli occupation forces continue to withhold 15 bodies of Palestinians who were extrajudicially executed.
Israeli mass incarceration of Palestinians is an inextricable part of the ongoing violence of occupation. Tearing at the fabric of Palestinian society, recent arrest campaigns seek to quash Palestinian ability to endure in their struggles against the occupation. It is important that on Palestinian Prisoners’ day, we all stand united to call for an end to Israeli violations of Palestinian rights. As Israel acts with ever growing contempt for international law and the will of the international community, action is now needed more than ever. We demand that the Israeli government refrain from abuses against Palestinians, including sweeping arrest campaigns and violations of prisoners’ rights.
PHROC calls on the International Criminal Court to immediately open an investigation into the case of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, and bring those who have tortured, extrajudicially executed, forcibly transferred, and arbitrary detained Palestinians to be held to accountable.