Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association (Palestine)
and Sumoud Political Prisoner Solidarity Group (Canada)
I. Executive Summary
As of the beginning of June 2004, over 7000 Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories were being held as political prisoners by the Israeli army or police. This figure includes 370 Palestinian children (defined as those under the age of 18 in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) and 103 Palestinian women (including girls). Their conditions of detention are extremely poor, and in some cases, life-threatening. The majority of these detainees are being held in violation of the IV Geneva Convention in prisons outside of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In addition to the over 7000 political prisoners held by Israel, thousands of other Palestinians have been detained and released since the beginning of the current Intifada in September 2000.
Israel continues to practice torture and other forms of mistreatment against Palestinian detainees including severe beatings, being tied in painful and contorted positions for long periods of time, psychological abuse, long periods of solitary confinement, and pressure to collaborate with the occupying forces. These abuses are not restricted to Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip; two Palestinians with Israeli citizenship recently launched a hunger strike following 54 days of detention in inhuman conditions in an Israeli detention center.
Of particular concern are reports from Facility 1391, a secret detention center reportedly in the North of Israel where prisoners report being raped and sodomized by interrogators.
Inside Israeli prisons, Palestinian prisoners frequently report attacks by prison guards including the firing of tear gas inside prisoner’s cells, beatings, denial of food and medical treatment and long periods of solitary confinement. Women prisoners report that they have been stripped naked by prison guards and shackled spread-eagled to prison beds in solitary confinement.
A large number of Palestinian prisoners are in urgent need of medical treatment and yet receive little more than basic pain relievers. Prisoners report that provision of medical treatment is often used as another form of coercion against them by the prison authorities.
Increasing attention has been given towards Israel’s detention of Palestinian children. In 2002 the UN Committee On the Rights of the Child publicly raised the treatment of Palestinian child prisoners by Israel. Nevertheless, Israel continues to arrest and torture Palestinian children at an unprecedented rate.
Family visits to Palestinian prisoners have been almost impossible since the beginning of the Intifada. When these visits have occurred, family members are forced to undergo a series of humiliating and invasive checks prior to their admittance to the prison where their relative is being held. Furthermore, prisoners are prevented from communicating with their families by phone. Letters are permitted but cannot be sealed and can be read by the administration at any time.