190 Arab and International figures have submitted a public petition to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council calling on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners whose lives have been put at risk by what they have described as Israel's ongoing failure to uphold its legal obligations and protect the basic rights of prisoners following the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the initiative launched by Dr Anis Fawzi Kassim, a Palestinian expert on international law, international figures including lawyers, academics, parliamentarians, and human rights activists, raised deep concerns over the inhumane conditions under which Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails and detention are being kept.
Some 5,000 Palestinian prisoners and detainees are believed to be languishing in Israeli jails without adequate safeguards against COVID-19.
Expressing their fear over the fate and well-being of the prisoners and detainees, the signatories criticised Israel for failing to uphold its legal duties as the "belligerent occupier" of Palestine. "Israel has been consistently negligent in shoring up its legal responsibilities under international law," the signatories expressed.
They denounced Israel for not having taken any real steps to protect Palestinian prisoners from being infected by COVID-19, claiming that it has dodged legal obligations by: "Utilising its formal organs, such as the courts, to justify its evasive practices of non-compliance with the law." They argued that these failures were "manifestly evident" during the spread of the global pandemic.
The petition stated that: "Israel remains negligent in and it could be called to account internationally for the 'crimes against humanity' based on article (7-1-1-h) of Rome Statute."
The signatories called on the UN and the international community to apply pressure on Israel for the release of all Palestinian prisoners and detainees, especially children, women, the sick, and the elderly. They also demand that Israel provide the prisoners with all necessary equipment and hygienic material to protect themselves from infection and to maintain their internationally-recognised right to basic health and well-being.