Press Briefing - October 05, 2002
The Israeli occupation forces continuously violate international human rights standards through their practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which stipulates the treatment of civilians in times of war. In the case of arrest and detention, Israel has violated numerous protocols, in particular the transfer of prisoners from the occupied land to prisons of the occupying army, the use of torture, arbitrary detention, and the constant humiliation of detainees.
Women detainees, like male detainees, are being exposed to extremely harsh conditions within Israeli prisons and detention centers. Detainees are tortured and oppressed by their jailers, and deprived from their basic rights as detainees, rights that are enshrined in international laws and treaties.
Prior to the start of the current Intifada in September 2000, there were not more than five Palestinian female detainees within Israeli prisons. Since the beginning of this Intifada, that number has risen dramatically to 47 female detainees, including at least 4 who are juveniles ranging from the age of 14 - 17 years old.
During the present Intifada, Palestinian women are placed in administrative detention in a way that was not evidenced in the previous Intifada. Two women, for example, Tahany Ahmad Issa Altiti (23 year’s old) from Al-Aroub refugee camp and Intesar Al-Ajory (28 year’s old) from Askar refugee camp, were issued administrative detention orders for six months.
Palestinian women in detention are continuously confronted by substandard conditions of detention and humiliation by the Israeli authorities, including isolation, strip searches, forbidden medical treatment, prohibited family visits, or allowed to go outside of their prison cells for daily walks. Many of those detained are mothers, with their children left with family members to care for them.
In particular, women in Al-Ramla are humiliated daily, forced to strip search in front of prison guards whilst handcuffed, placed among Israeli criminal prisoners who are being held for such crimes as murder, robbery, drug use and prostitution. This situation creates serious tensions amongst detainees, as they should be afforded special status as political prisoners, separated from criminals, and afforded adequate standards of detention.
Food is usually distributed first to Israeli prisoners, with Palestinian detainees offered their remaining food.
Because of the Palestinian detainee’s insistence to organize themselves within the prison, the prison administration has often punished their activities. For example, Palestinian women detainees were accused of conducting military exercises while they were having aerobics classes.
At the end of July 2002, Palestinian women detainees began a hunger strike in protest of the ill treatment they had faced. The strike began when a water pipe in the prison was damaged, leaking water into one of the cells and the passageway connecting cells, causing the area to flood and a strong stench to ensue and creating an unhygienic environment in the prison. The prison authorities did nothing to repair the problem after detainees complained.
Detainees began shouting at the guards, to which the guards responding by firing tear gas canisters inside their cells, and sealing the entire section until the morning. The next morning, Israeli soldiers attacked the section holding the detainees, a number of the detainees were transferred from Ramla prison to Al-Jalama and Al-Maskobia interrogation centers, and others were transferred to other prisons. The remaining detainees were placed in solitary confinement as a punishment for asking for their basic rights.
What happened in Al-Ramla prison evoked the anger of all Palestinians in detention centers an prisons. In protest and solidarity with the women prisoners, other detainees in a number of prisons also began a hunger strike, protesting the attacks by the prison administration.
Although the situation of Palestinian female detainees is tragic, they continue to endure and resist under extremely harsh circumstances, playing a large role in the epic of patience and refusal to submit to injustice, an epic that has been playing itself out in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for over 50 years.