As Palestinians commemorate Prisoners' Day, the statistics show that Israel is holding almost 5,000 political prisoners in its jails. According to the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah), the actual number of "security prisoners" is 4,804; this includes 14 women, 235 children, 170 with Israeli citizenship, 177 from occupied East Jerusalem, 2 from the occupied Golan Heights, 536 from Gaza and 4,099 from the occupied West Bank.
A report issued by Adalah confirms that the data was supplied by the Israeli Prison Service on 10th April 2013. This shows that 1,224 prisoners are being held in custody pending legal action; 159 are being held without charge or trial under so-called "administrative detention"; and 546 are serving life sentences. Of the latter, 18 are Israeli citizens, 27 are from Jerusalem and 455 are from the West Bank.
Adalah said that such "security prisoners" suffer from official racism at the hands of the security agencies, the prison service and even the Supreme Court of Israel. Such discrimination, alleges Adalah, is not coincidental but is part of a targeted policy adopted by Israel based on "justified and understood" procedures.
"During the last decade, the role of the Supreme Court in defending the rights of security prisoners has gone from bad to worse," said Adalah's report. "Reviewing the basic decisions of the Israeli courts reveals clearly that judges refused to intervene to defend Palestinian prisoners whose basic rights were violated." Such violations include torture. "The Supreme Court also decided in February 2013 not to interfere in the case of an Adalah petition which demanded that investigators should record interviews of security prisoners using audio and video equipment."
The violation of prisoners' rights includes transportation to court. Adalah filed a petition to the courts about the fact that prisoners are often kept in prison vans for up to 15 hours without recourse to food or toilet facilities. "Although this has improved slightly," said Adalah's information officer, "the court has not acknowledged that the original practice was wrong."
In the latest case involving a petition from Adalah, the Supreme Court did not accept that preventing prisoners from studying with the Open University goes against the basic principles of prisoners' rights. "The court said that discrimination between security prisoners and criminal prisoners is acceptable."
The Adalah report praised the efforts of the UN and EU regarding Palestinian prisoners' rights. "Although it may not bring about change in the short-term, it does have long-term benefits," said the human rights group.