Joint Press Release - April 17, 2002
Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association
Defence for Children International / Palestine Section
On the occasion of Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, Addameer and DCI/PS call for the immediate release of Palestinian political prisoners, including children.
As of today, 17 April 2002, thousands of Palestinians remain detained in Israeli detention centers throughout the West Bank and inside Israel. In a wave of arbitrary mass detentions, thousands of Palestinian prisoners have been rounded up by the Israeli military, handcuffed, blindfolded and transported to detention facilities where they are exposed to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Over 10% of these newly arrested are children. The detainees are denied access to attorneys and information regarding their whereabouts is often unknown by their families and human rights organizations.
According to information provided to Addameer and DCI/PS by Issa Karaka, President of the Palestinian Prisoners Club (Nadi al-Aseer), it is impossible at present to know the exact number of prisoners detained, but the number is more than 5,000. He also reports that the Israeli military authorities have refused to provide a list of those detained during the recent siege to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The process of arrest passes through a number of stages. Firstly, Israeli soldiers are continuing to carry out mass, arbitrary arrests of thousands of Palestinians from their homes. This arrest is carried out by heavily armed Israeli troops who often terrorize families and destroy property in the process of arrest. Following arrest, the detainees are blindfolded and handcuffed and taken to a detention center located in an Israeli settlement. Upon arrival, the detainees are verbally informed that they are being held under an Emergency Regulation order, dating from the time of the British Mandate on Palestine.
While in the detention center, the detainees are brought before a military judge who will decide on the basis of “secret evidence” whether to formally issue an administrative detention order, which determines whether the prisoner will remain or be released. This secret evidence is not made available to the prisoner and they have no legal representation.
The Israeli military commander for the West Bank issued a new military order (No. 1500) on 5 April 2002, which allows for Israeli soldiers to arrest any Palestinian from the West Bank without providing a reason and without a warrant. Moreover, the military order decrees that these detainees can be arrested for a period of 18 days before any legal proceedings take place. The new military order builds on previously issued orders requiring detainees to be brought before a judge within eight days. At present, detainees can be held for 18 days, as decreed by military order no. 1500, and then for an additional eight days, as decreed by previous military orders. Military order no. 1500 is retroactive, applying to all detainees arrested since 29 March 2002.
According to information received by Addameer and DCI/PS, tens of administrative detention orders have been handed down by military judges to Palestinian prisoners in the detention camps. Prior to the current siege, around 70 Palestinian prisoners were being detained under administrative detention orders in Megiddo Prison. Under this order, detainees can be held without trial or charge for the period of the order. Administrative Detention orders can be renewed repeatedly with no reason provided.
Over the last week, Israeli authorities have reopened Ketziot prison in the Negev desert, a notorious desert prison that was used to hold thousands of detainees during the first Intifada. In the last few days, all administrative detainees held in Megiddo (around 70 people) and 150 prisoners who were sentenced in Megiddo prior to the recent Israeli invasions were transferred to Ketziot. In addition, over 150 of those prisoners arrested in the recent arrest campaign were also transferred to Ketziot and issued administrative detention orders. The remaining thousands of prisoners in the detention centres are awaiting their turn to appear before the military judge.
Thus far, neither lawyers nor the International Committee of the Red Cross, have been allowed to visit the detained. A DCI/PS attorney was informed by the Israeli occupation authorities that in order for him to visit any Palestinian child detainee recently rounded-up, he must present power-of-attorney proving that he is the prisoners’ legal representative. In the case of children, this documentation must be signed by either the child or his/her legal guardian. Given the curfew imposed on thousands of Palestinian residents at present, preventing Palestinian civilians, including human rights lawyers from leaving their homes, signed documentation is virtually impossible to obtain. If such documentation were obtained, it would nevertheless be impossible for many Palestinian lawyers, who live in the areas under curfew to visit those detained. It is also prohibited for other human rights lawyers, whether Israeli or Palestinian, to travel to the areas where the prisoners are detained, as they are classified as “closed military zones.”
Human rights lawyers, including those from Addameer and Adalah, have filed three petitions with the Israeli High Court to allow lawyer visits to Ofer Detention Camp, located near Ramallah. Each time, the petition has been rejected. The lawyers are continuing their efforts and have launched a new appeal. According to information received from a prisoner released three days ago, around 1300 Palestinians are currently held in Ofer in sub-human conditions.
Testimonies provided to both Addameer and DCI/PS repeatedly confirm beyond any doubt that detainees are subject to systematic abuse and severe mistreatment in the detention centres. This abuse includes violent beating, being handcuffed and blindfolded for long periods of time, severe lack of food, no access to medical treatment, forced to sleep outside with shortages of bedding and repeated psychological and physical abuse. Furthermore, following release, detainees are taken to outlying areas in the middle of the night where they are left in dangerous situations without means of getting home.
It should be stressed that children make up a significant proportion of those arrested and are treated in the same manner as adult detainees. Initial information indicates that children make up 10-15% of detainees meaning that more than 500 children under the age of 18 have been detained in the recent arrest campaign. Around 160 children were incarcerated in Israeli prisons prior to the recent wave of arrests.
The following case studies highlight the abuse that thousands of Palestinians have been arbitrarily subjected to in the period since 29 March. It should be reiterated that the experiences of these detainees represent the norm of those thousands currently held in detention centres.
- Bassem Shadid, from Dura near the city of Hebron was arrested on Monday, 8 April along with two children also from Dura, aged 13 years and 16 years. They were first taken to Addoriym Detention Centre and then to Gush Etzion Detention Centre in the Israeli settlement of the same name near Bethlehem. During the two days that they spent in the detention centre, Bassem witnessed three waves of detainees being brought to the settlement, totaling around 140 detainees. He estimated that at least 10 of the detainees were children under 18. The two children arrested along with Bassem were forced to remove their clothes down to their underwear at the time of their arrest. They were kept in their underwear without clothes for the two days of detention and were released in this state very late on Wednesday night. They spent most of the time handcuffed and blindfolded and were given very poor food and no access to medical services. One of the detainees held with them was epileptic and not provided with his required medication.
- According to an adult Palestinian male from Ramallah, recently released from Ofer detention camp, both the physical conditions of detention and the treatment by Israeli army soldiers are very bad. The individual was detained there for 15 days, during which they were repeatedly fed uncooked schnitzel. He reports that there are numerous Palestinian children detained in the facility, some appearing as young as 13 and 14 years old. He informed DCI/PS that, as he was being transferred out of the facility, he saw two children being brought to the camp. He witnessed soldiers mocking the children with phrases from Palestinian political speeches and then beating them. After 15 days detention, he and other prisoners from the Ramallah area were taken to Kfar Saba in the northern West Bank and left at 1am. The prisoners were then forced to find their own transportation back to Ramallah, a dangerous and almost impossible task given the ongoing Israeli military siege on communities throughout the West Bank at present.
- O. was arrested last week from his house at 1pm by heavily armed Israeli soldiers. O. is very sick and needs urgent medical treatment outside the country. This fact was known to the soldiers before they arrested him. They took him in a bus blindfolded and handcuffed to several military bases. At each stop he was ordered out of the bus by soldiers who called him by name. The other detainees remained inside the bus as he was singled out. He was badly beaten each time he was removed from the bus. When they arrived in the bus to Beitunia at around 3pm they released him because of his sickness and told him “Your arrest is a message to say we can arrest whenever we want and wherever you are.”
- Basel T. was arrested from the Presidential compound (the Muqaat’a) on March 29. He had been detained there on civil matters by Palestinian police following a serious road accident in which he was badly injured. On the first day of the invasion when Israeli troops stormed the Muqaat’a he was taken from the prison. Throughout the period of his arrest he was severely beaten despite his health condition.
Basel stated that the Israeli soldiers focused their beatings on the parts of his body where he was suffering from injuries due to the road accident. He was taken in a bus to Ofra settlement where they interrogated them. While at Ofra settlement he and other prisoners were beaten continuously and forced to stand in the rain for 5 hours without shelter. Soldiers forced them to swear at the Palestinian Authority and curse god. Afterwards they were taken to Ofer prison remaining handcuffed and blindfolded the whole time. At the prison they were forced to sleep outside in tents. There was a shortage of blankets and mattresses (one blanket and mattress for three people). They were given wooden crates to sleep on, one for every three people. For food they were given a piece of unleavened bread and one uncooked schnitzel for each four people. Sometimes they were given apples. Most of them time they were not provided with breakfast. For dinner they were given a tin of yogurt to divide between four persons. Despite Basel’s request for medicine to treat his wounds he was refused. During the night they would be called out of the tents in the rain and told they were to be counted. After standing outside for 2-3 hours the soldiers would then say that they didn’t want to count them and would do it later. Basel was released on Tuesday, 4 April, at midnight. He was taken in a bus with other detainees and dumped at Qalandia checkpoint, left to find their own way back into Ramallah while the city was under strict curfew. When they were released the soldiers told them that had only one minute to escape or they would be shot. Some of the detainees were thrown from the bus still handcuffed and blindfolded.
- Shereen Jameel Abdullah Rabah, a 14 year old girl from Bethlehem was arrested on 7 April at 3:50pm during the invasion of Bethlehem. Soldiers entered the house and demanded the identity cards of everyone there. Shereen did not have an ID card because of her young age, the soldiers however refused to believe her. She was arrested along with her elderly father, six brothers, two of her nephews and her brother-in-law. They were taken to the Presidential residence in Bethlehem which had been occupied by Israeli soldiers. Everyone was taken inside the residence except for Shereen and her father who is in his 70s. Shereen and her father were forced to stand outside in the very cold weather for half an hour. Afterwards they were taken to Kfar Etzion detention centre (located in the Gush Etzion bloc) where they were also forced to stand outside for half an hour. They were then taken to interrogation where Shereen was threatened that her house would be demolished and all her relatives would be imprisoned. They were about to beat her when Shereen showed them her birth certificate proving her young age. At around 11:30pm they were released and they were forced to attempt to walk in the cold weather to Efrat settlement. This was very dangerous because of the presence of heavily armed Israeli settlers on the roads who have often beaten or killed Palestinians.
Moreover, they could hear continuous tank shelling and shooting by Israeli soldiers. An Israeli military jeep stopped them and told them they would take the girl to a nearby highway but her father would have to remain behind. Shereen and her father refused and the soldiers took her father’s ID card which they later returned. They were forced to return back to Kfar Etzion and stayed there until 5am. After that they walked for three hours to Efrat settlement where they found a Palestinian from inside the Green Line who drove them to Al Khader checkpoint. At the checkpoint the soldiers refused to let them enter and they waited there for another hour. After that they walked through some nearby fields until they reached the Beit Jala District Coordination Office. By this time Shereen’s father was very tired and they rested there until 8:30am. They then walked another three hours until they reached their house at 11:30am.
The current wave of arrests is a continuation of Israel’s incarceration policies witnessed over the last 34 years since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967. These practices constitute another arm of Israel’s occupation policy and are designed to intimidate, oppress and strangle the just struggle for Palestinian freedom. They are carried out in a mass, arbitrary fashion and the inhuman manner in which detainees are treated confirms the brutality inherent in the Israeli occupation. All Palestinian political prisoners should be immediately released and these practices of arrest and detention must be halted. DCI/PS and Addameer urge concerned individuals and organizations to address letters of protest to the following individuals:
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Mrs. Mary Robinson
Tel. ++41 22 917 9000
Fax. ++41 22 917 9012/9006/9005
E-mail: [email protected]
Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon
Office of the Prime Minister
Tel: ++972 2 6705555
Fax: ++972 2 566 4838
Email: [email protected]
President, European Commission
Romano Prodi
European Commission
200 rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 200
B-1049 Brussels
E-mail: [email protected]
US President
George Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Phone: ++1-202 456 1414
Fax: ++1-202 456 2461
Email: [email protected]