Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails
The number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons and detention centres has reached 4,750 people from every sector of Palestinian society. The majority (82.5 per cent) are residents of the West Bank, 9.6 per cent are from the Gaza Strip, and the rest are from Jerusalem and those living in the areas of Palestine occupied in 1948 now known as Israel. They are spread around 17 prisons and detention centres, the most well-known of which are Al-Naqab, Ofer, Nafha, Gilbo’a, Shata, Ramon, Askalan, Hadarim, Eshel, Ohalei Kedar, HaSharon, Ramla and Megiddo.
Of the total, 186 are in “administrative detention” without charge and 13 are women, the oldest of which is Lina Al-Jarbouni from the 1948 occupied territories, who has been in jail for 11 years. Moreover, there are 198 children under the age 18, 25 of whom are under the age of 16, as well as 12 elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), 3 former ministers and a large number of Palestinian officials.
Violations against prisoners
Palestinian prisoners are often denied visitors, put in solitary confinement and kept under so-called administrative detention, which means that they are being held without charge or trial. Furthermore, they are subjected to numerous strip searches, denied education opportunities, prohibited from having books, given small servings of low quality food and facing frequent day and night searches. In addition, the prisons lack basic necessities and have adopted a policy of official medical negligence, especially in the case of those with chronic illnesses and those who need operations while imprisoned. This includes prisoners with cancer, heart problems, kidney disease, arthritis, high blood pressure, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, haemorrhoids, obesity and ulcers; they receive very little in the way of care.
The number of prisoners suffering ill-health has reached 1,400 with a variety of conditions resulting from the difficult conditions behind bars, including abuse and malnutrition. These prisoners do not receive essential health care. What is worse is that dozens of prisoners also suffer from mobility, mental and sensory disabilities, in addition to those suffering from dangerous and chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, kidney failure and paralysis.
Furthermore, there are 18 prisoners permanently held in what is called “Ramla Hospital”, some of whom cannot move due to the continued neglect of the prison administration and the failure to provide the necessary healthcare and treatment.
There are 106 elderly prisoners who have been imprisoned since before the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority on May 4, 1994. This list includes prisoners from all the Palestinian municipalities, the majority of whom, 57, are from the West Bank; 26 are from the Gaza Strip, 14 are from the 1948 occupied territories and 9 are from occupied Jerusalem.
The list includes 71 prisoners who have served over 20 years; they are called the “deans” of the prisoners. Those who have served over 25 years are called “generals of patience”, of which there are 24. Unfortunately, these figures are rising as the years go by. Two of these prisoners, Kareem and hunger striker Maher Younis, from the village of ‘Ar’ara, occupied in 1948, have served over 30 years.
Torture and martyrs of the national prisoner movement
Every prisoner entering an Israeli prison will already have experienced various forms of mental and physical torture. The abuse begins at the moment of arrest, accompanied by the fear and horror experienced by their families, as the Israelis purposely highlight their brutality and abuse of the detainee in front of the family and children. Moreover, the Israeli occupation forces deliberately insult and hit detainees before taking them from their homes. This is then followed by death threats, exile, house demolitions, violations, the arresting of prisoners’ wives, having heads covered with filthy bags, sleep deprivation, lack of medical treatment, using cuts during interrogation, placing the detainee in a refrigerator, keeping detainees standing for long periods, using spies posing as prisoners, psychological distress, the use of plastic restraints, pouring cold or hot water over the prisoner’s head, using very loud music, forbidding prisoners from performing religious rituals and stripping prisoners.
In their cells, prisoners are forbidden from using normal toilets, being given buckets instead which cause unpleasant smells and are a health risk. They are abused severely and their hands are tied behind small chairs or to moving tile in order to weaken their spines; they are often forced into such uncomfortable positions for hours, even days. In addition to this, prisoners have their heads shaken vigorously, which may lead to paralysis, permanent disability or even death. The most dangerous of all such torture is the use of blunt instruments to hit prisoners during interrogation which has led to numerous deaths.
What happened to Arafat Jaradat after suffering brutal torture during his interrogation in Al-Julma Prison, known to Palestinians as “Al-Julma slaughterhouse”, is clear evidence of the Israelis’ disregard for the lives of Palestinian prisoners. More than two hundred Palestinians have died as a result of such treatment; 71 died due to abuse, 51 due to medical negligence, 74 were murder ed immediately after their arrest and 7 were shot inside detention centres.
Martyrs of the “cemeteries of numbers”
Israel is the only state in the world which keeps the remains of dead prisoners; it refuses to hand over the remains of martyrs who have been in the “cemeteries of numbers” since 1978, such as Dalal Al-Maghrabi. Furthermore, dozens of prisoners’ bodies are held by the Israelis in conditions which do not observe human dignity for the deceased. This is entirely in breach of international humanitarian law, which requires occupying powers such as Israel to hand over the remains of dead prisoners to their families and to respect religious requirements for burial.
There are about 186 prisoners held in administrative detention with neither charge nor trial. Such prisoners are held on the basis of secret evidence that neither the prisoner nor their lawyer is shown. The detention order can be renewed indefinitely by a military court.
There are 11 prisoners currently on hunger strike; 2 of them, Samer Al-Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh, have been on strike for over 6 months in protest at their re-arrest after being released in the prisoner exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Ja’afar Ezzedine and Tarik Qa’adan have been on strike for 92 days in protest at their administrative detention based on secret evidence, in addition to the fact that they have not been charged. Mona Qa’adan has been on hunger strike for 6 days in solidarity with her brother Tarik, and the doyen of all Palestinian and Arab prisoners, Maher Younis, has been on political strike. Prisoners Ayman Saqar, Omar Dar Ayoub, Sufyan Rabe’e, Hazem Al-Taweel and Younis Al-Horoub have all been on hunger strike in protest at the administrative detention process.
Ex-prisoners re-arrested after the prisoner exchange agreement
Mona Qa’adan from Jenin, Ayman Al-Sharawneh from Hebron, Samer Al-Issawi from Jerusalem, Eyad Fanoun from Bethlehem, Ali Juma’a from Hebron, Ibrahim Abu-Hajleh from Ramallah, Yousef Shitewi from Qalqiliya, Ayman Abu-Daud from Hebron and Abdulrahman Dahbour from Qalqilya have all been re-arrested after being released in the prisoner exchange agreement.
There are 13 female Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons; the oldest is Lina Jarbouni from the 1948 occupied territories, who was detained 11 years ago. Her fellow female prisoners are Mona Qa’adan, Nawal Al-Sa’adi, Asma Al-Batran, Manal Zawahreh, Ena’am Al-Hasanat, Intisar Al-Sayed, Ala’a Abu-Zaytoun, Ala’a Al-Jua’aba, Hadeel Abu-Turki, Salwa Hassan, Ayat Mahfouth and Eman Bani Odeh.
Violations against female prisoners
The Israeli authorities commit dozens of violations against female prisoners in their prisons, the most prominent of which are the brutal manner of their arrest in front of their families and young children; physical and mental interrogation methods; the prevention of them from seeing their children; medical negligence towards pregnant prisoners; physical restraints during childbirth; punishments during imprisonment, such as isolation and force; detaining them in inappropriate places; provocative searches by prison officers; insults, assaults and the use of tear gas. Furthermore, they are treated badly when taken out for court appearances or family visits or even during transfer from one prison section to another. They are occasionally denied visits. During isolation periods political prisoners are often mixed with criminals, and the needs of the prisoners’ children are not met.
The number of child prisoners held by Israel has reached 198. They are subject to outrageous violations that breach all international laws and conventions for the protection of minors and to secure their physical, psychological and educational rights. Such conventions insist on contact with family members and counsellors who guide them and ensure that they are dealt with by the authorities as children and not terrorists. The latter is all too often the case.
Furthermore, young prisoners suffer from a lack of healthcare, as well as cultural and psychological care and an absence of counsellors in Israeli jails. They are also held near criminals in most cases, and are terrorised and harassed during the arrest process.
Isolation is considered to be one of the harshest forms of punishment used by the Israeli prison administration. Prisoners are held in isolated, dark and very small spaces for lengthy periods and are not allowed to have contact with other prisoners.
Prisoners in solitary confinement suffer under unbearably miserable conditions. They are denied of the most basic human rights, being beaten and humiliated daily. The cells they are held in have been described as graves; some prisoners have spent long years in such confinement, leading to serious mental and physical illnesses. Prisoners held by Israel in solitary confinement for many years include Darar Abu-Seesi, Samer Abu-Kwaik, Tamer Al-Remawi, Awad Al-Saeedi and Emad Sarhan.