Justice for the Palestinian Prisoners

By Luisa Morgantini
18 April 2008
Liberazione (Reprint in the International Middle East Media Center)
More than 11,000 prisoners in Israeli jails. Among them, Marwan Barghouti, candidate to the PNA Presidency
An appeal by Members of the EU Parliament: «Justice for the Palestinian prisoners »
The last time that Widad hugged her son was eight years ago, in a prison in Ashkelon, Israel: for many years since she wasn’t allowed to see him, as the Israeli Authorities repeatedly denied her the permit for “security reasons”.
Widad Naief Mohammad Atabeh lives in Nablus, is 78 years old, suffers from hypertension, diabetes and her sight has strongly worsen since the last time she saw Saed: « He hugged me and said that in that moment he was born again to life. Those minutes for us were the most precious, but the moment we had to depart from each other was the hardest and most disappointing». This is what she writes today in an appeal to all mothers in the world, in an effort to put pressure on the Israeli Authorities to allow her to see Saed for the last time making her dream come true.
Saed Wajih Saed Atabeh, arrested in July 29th 1977, is 52 years old and spent 32 years of his life in a prison cell.He is the Palestinian prisoner to be detained for the longest time in an Israeli jail and –his mother adds - in the villages he is known as “the Mandela from Palestine”.
During all these years, Israeli Authorities have not allowed Widad to visit him. Thus, despite her physical illnesses, she continues to call for justice from her home in Nablus, a town under siege because of continuous Israeli raids: “While Yegal Amir, the killer of the Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, receives regular visits from his family, has married and had a son in jail, Saed is not even given the opportunity of a last hug from his mother. How can this be?”
According to the last UN reports on human rights in the Occupied Territories, more than 11,000 Palestinians are prisoners in Israeli jails, including thousands with illnesses, 376 children, 118 women and 47 Parliamentarians.
Since 1967, more than 700,000 Palestinians have been arrested over a population of 3,5 millions: these data make Israel unique for the number of reprimands by the UN Council for Human Rights, a criticism that is ignored by the Israeli Government and forgotten by the International Community.
Nothing has been done to prevent the Israeli systematic use of administrative detentions, a practice that allows for many Palestinians – 813 at the end of January 2008- to be detained for renewable periods of up to six months and resulting in years of detention with no trial nor the possibility of legal support. We can’t tolerate these violations of human rights: that is why a group of 46 Members of the European Parliament, belonging to different political forces, has promoted a parliamentary inquiry of the EU Council and EU Commission on the abuses of administrative detention.
These include the hundreds of Palestinian children who are detained and subjected to inhuman treatments, harsh interrogations, deprived of food, sleep and exposed to illnesses which are hard to be treated in a jail, where they are kept together with adults, with no psychological support nor the opportunity to continue their studies.
Additionally, they are often threatened and beaten, in explicit violation of the UN Convention on Child’s Rights, adopted by Israel in 1991 but de facto never implemented. Further, during the years of this second Intifada, more than 6,000 have been put in jail.
Palestinian children are also suffering heavy consequences since permits to visit detainees are denied to their mothers, wives, brothers or sisters.
Because of these restrictions, children are the ones to visit their relatives, having to wake up in the middle of the night to travel alone on buses for hours with the fear of check points and of Israeli soldiers, and bearing the responsibility to be the only link between the family and their imprisoned brothers or fathers.
They deliver bags full of medicines, food, cigarettes and the words that their mothers can’t say directly. When they come back home, they are shocked, hardly speak, feel nervous, troubled, exhausted: this causes them to miss school, often a week of absences per month is caused by this avoidable, extraordinary adventure.
As members of the European Parliament we call for justice and legality, waiting for clear answers by the EU Commission and Council in particular regarding the implementation of article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement (which includes a suspension of the agreement in case of Human Rights violations) on what kind of actions need to be undertaken to achieve the realization of International laws and Conventions ratified by the State of Israel.
Yet, the initiative should start within the same Israeli Government, which continues to ignore all peace commitments it has made: they should listen to the appeal launched by Marwan Barghouti, a parliamentary abducted in 2002 and condemned to 5 life sentences, who, from his cell, asks Israel to honor its 60 years by “signing a peace accord, recognizing the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, ending the military occupation and releasing the 11,000 prisoners”.
This would allow Widad and many other mothers to hug their beloved and would guarantee children’s right to a secure and peaceful childhood.
Yesterday was a day dedicated to Palestinian Political prisoners, thousands of Palestinians asked for their freedom: we should join them in this quest and don’t leave them alone. We should endorse the call for the release of Marwan Barghouti, a leader who can represent the unity of the Palestinian people and Territory, fundamental for any peace negotiations, especially with the coming Presidential elections of January 2009 in which he could  participate as a candidate, hopefully by then as a free man.
Luisa Morgantini
*Vice President of the European Parliament
Translated by Luisa Morgantini’s Office and Corinna Giorgi