Human rights activists have filed an urgent petition to Israel’s High Court this morning against emergency regulations enacted due to the coronavirus crisis preventing lawyers and family members from meeting with Palestinian prisoners.
The decision announced on 15 March determines that political prisoners, who are usually denied the right to use phones in prison, can only consult with their attorneys over the phone in the event of an upcoming court hearing.
Two signatories to the petition, the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association (Addameer) and the Israeli Legal Rights Centre (Adalah) both emphasized that the Israeli government had imposed the restrictions without any legal authority and that it must be revoked.
Attorney Abeer Baker, an expert on incarceration who represents criminal and political prisoners told +972 Magazine “You can’t deny prisoners their rights absolutely only because of fear of a pandemic.” She explained, “They are entirely disconnected, and it can continue this way for months.”
Meeting with lawyers is one of the only ways that prisoners, many of whom have been locked up for years, can communicate with the outside world. Whatever the challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis, Adalah lawyer Aiah Haj Odeh insisted that the Israeli authorities should not be allowed to run rampant over fundamental human rights. “International law requires that Israel must recognize the right of prisoners and detainees to visit with family, and to consult with lawyers and access the courts,” he added.