On 14 February 2023, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, and the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society sent a joint urgent appeal to the United Nations (UN) Special Procedures on collective punishment and arbitrary measures implemented by the Israeli Prison Services (IPS) against Palestinian prisoners and detainees. While Israel has a long-established policy of arbitrarily imposing punitive and unlawful measures on Palestinian prisoners and detainees, alarming measures, since Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition has taken power, foreshadow the new government’s hostile agenda towards Palestinian prisoners, with actions already undertaken in January alone paving the pathway for further violations of Palestinian prisoners’ rights and subjugation and oppression of the Palestinian people as a whole.
The urgent appeal highlights a number of alarming measures, including Ben-Gvir’s plans to pass ‘the death penalty law for terrorists’ and to cancel regulations allowing any Knesset members to meet with Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons. Furthermore, the urgent appeal underlines that the Israeli Knesset cleared and approved its first reading of proposed legislation aimed at revoking Israeli citizenship or the ‘permanent’ residency of Palestinians imprisoned over widely defined “acts of terror.” Notably, as of 12 February 2023, around 150 Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship and around 400 Palestinian Jerusalemites are incarcerated in Israeli prisons as political prisoners.
In addition to the IPS mass forcible transfer of Palestinian political prisoners in a repressive, arbitrary, and sudden manner, the urgent appeal further underlines the IPS’ intention to implement a set of procedural changes sanctioned by “higher” Israeli occupying authorities to restrict the daily activities of Palestinian prisoners. These measures, include, the forcible transfer of prisoners every three months from their designated cells, without prior notice or consent from their prison representatives; limiting family visits to half an hour per month; limiting free/yard time to one hour a day; separating incarcerated family members, where they will not be grouped in the same prison or the same rooms. Further, the prisoner’s familial place of residence will not be taken into account in terms of their location of incarceration; prohibiting prisoners from gathering in sections and rooms for organisational purposes; and hanging the Israeli flag in each prison room.
Moreover, the urgent appeal highlights the brutal raid carried out by “Yanmaz” Israeli Special Units on the women’s section in Damon prison. During and following the raid, all electronic equipment were confiscated, the section was completely shut down for five days, and four Palestinian women prisoners were placed in solitary confinement in Damon prison for seven days, in addition to transferring the women prisoners’ representative to solitary confinement in Neve Tirza prison until 7 February 2023. The urgent appeal also underscores the dire changes inflicted upon Palestinian female prisoners incarcerated at Damon prison. For example, the daily cell inspection that was previously carried out by female prison guards is currently being implemented by female prison guards accompanied by male prison guards. Moreover, the IPS in Damon prison have recently banned the entry of medical glasses under the pretext that they contain iron. Further, to date, there have been no developments with regard to enabling children under six years of age to visit Damon prison and to be in close physical contact with their mothers without any obstructions or barriers, thereby, preventing children to embrace their mothers.
Crucially, the urgent appeal notes that these arbitrary and punitive collective measures constitutes a strategy to weaken and destabilise Palestinian unity and efforts in protesting their unjust and arbitrary detention conditions; enabling and facilitating Israeli efforts to control existing and new prisoners.
Thus, our organisations urged the UN Special Procedures to:
- Demand Israel, the Occupying Power, and the IPS to ensure and uphold Palestinian political prisoners’ right to life and the highest attainable standard of health and mental health, and to avoid and end all forms of arbitrary, retaliatory, and collective punishment imposed against Palestinian political prisoners;
- Urge Israel to put an end to the systematic and arbitrary use of administrative detention against Palestinians, and demand the release of all Palestinian political prisoners held in administrative detention indefinitely without charge or trial, contrary to international law;
- Call on Israel to immediately repeal its Entry into Israel Law (1952), which has been used to further and entrench Palestinian fragmentation, as well as the Israeli policy of population transfer and achieve demographic goals in Jerusalem, in violation of Palestinians’ fundamental rights, including their right to freedom of movement and residence, and the right to leave their country and to return; and
- Call for international justice and accountability, including at the International Criminal Court, for Israel’s widespread and systematic human rights violations, and alleged international crimes, including the crime of population transfer, and the crime of apartheid, which constitutes a crime against humanity.
Read the full urgent appeal here.