The Israeli Knesset yesterday passed the first reading of a bill which will prevent prisoners convicted on “terror” charges of requesting early release.
The bill – which will prevent prisoners convicted of murder or attempted murder in “terrorism” cases from having their sentences shortened – passed its first reading in the Knesset yesterday with 57 votes in favour and 12 against. The bill must pass two more Knesset votes before being written into Israeli law, the Times of Israel reported.
According to Arutz Sheva, the explanation for the bill reads as follows: “The terror wave that began in September 2015 [the Jerusalem Intifada] and still continues requires increased deterrence vis-à-vis terrorist operatives. There is no doubt that not allowing the reduction of the punishment would be a more significant and effective deterrent than the current situation in which accessories to terror and terrorists who murdered Jews could be released from prison without having served the time imposed upon them in its entirety.”“Therefore, it is proposed that those convicted of terrorism and security offenses not be released on probation and not be entitled to a reduction of a third of their imprisonment,” the bill adds.
Though the bill does not explicitly mention Palestinians, it is widely understood that it will be used to deny them the rights afforded to other prisoners. Israel regularly uses the charge of terrorism against Palestinians, meaning they will be denied the same rights as Jewish Israeli inmates who are rarely convicted of terror offences.
Israel currently holds 5,554 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, among which are 482 administrative detainees who are being held indefinitely without charge. According to the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, better known as Addameer, 489 prisoners are serving a sentence above 20 years and 540 are serving life sentences.
Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons are also known to be mistreated during their detention. Last week it emerged that Palestinian prisoners are being diagnosed with medical conditions late because of a lack of health care in Israel’s jails, with NGO the Prisoners’ Centre for Studies saying that 12 per cent of prisoners are diagnosed with hypertension and 2.7 per cent are diabetic. Four Palestinian prisoners have died so far this year while in Israeli custody, including 57-year-old Hussein Hassani who died as a result of complications in his health condition which he developed in Israeli jails and the medical negligence which ensued.
In the Israeli political context, yesterday’s bill represents the first time the Knesset has been able to overcome the factional infighting that has led to the postponement of a number of crucial debates in recent weeks, including the so-called “cultural loyalty bill” and the Haredi draft law. Since former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned last month – in doing so taking his Yisrael Beiteinu party out of the coalition – the government has been left with a precarious one-seat majority that has made it difficult to pass contentious bills.