Photo: ActiveStills.org

Four Palestinian institutions that work on prisoners’ rights, the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, and the Prisoners’ Affairs Commission, issued the below report on the arrests of 483 Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces in October 2017. English translation by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.

International law provides special protections to civilian populations under occupation. One aspect of such protection includes safeguards against arbitrary detention and other measures aimed at preserving and maintaining the human dignity of people inside and outside detention centers.

In violation of its most basic obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, Israeli occupation forces continued their policy of arbitrary detention of hundreds of civilians from the occupied Palestinian territory in October 2017.

Arbitrary arrests and detention are serious phenomena that continue to be carried out by occupation authorities in various Palestinian governorates and affect all sectors of society, especially children and women.

Part 1: Statistics of arrests

(Note: the figures in this report are based on the monitoring and documentation by the institutions involved in its preparation.)

In October 2017, Israeli occupation forces arrested 483 Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), including 125 children, eight women and four journalists.

According to the monitoring and documentation conducted by the four Palestinian institutions, the Israeli occupation authorities arrested 137 Palestinians from Jerusalem governorate, 80 from al-Khalil, 82 from Jenin, 52 from Ramallah and El-Bireh, 32 from Bethlehem, 28 from Qalqilya, 20 from Nablus, 15 from Tubas, 15 from Tulkarem, eight from Jericho, seven from Salfit and seven from the Gaza Strip.

In the context of the policy of administrative detention – imprisonment without charge or trial – the occupation authorities issued 86 administrative detention orders, including 35 new orders. Thus, the total number of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails reached 6300, including 59 women, among them 11 minor girls. There are approximately 250 Palestinian children in Israeli jails and 450 Palestinians held without charge or trial under administrative detention.

Part 2: Detention of Children

The Israeli occupation courts in Jerusalem continue to issue sentences of house arrest againt Jerusalemite children, which deprives these children of their right to education. A child who has been sentenced to house imprisonment is forbidden from leaving the home, except for approved medical visits with their guardian and after informing the authorities. This forces parents to become jailers of their children, causing them deep pain.

Even more, the Israeli courts do not hesitate to issue sentences of imprisonment for children under 15 in the “sheltering center,” where eight Palestinian children are currently held. (Shadi Farrah, Adam Mohammed Sub Laban, Burhan Mohammed Abu Shaker, Ahmed al-Zaatari, Ali Ehab Alqam, Mohammed Ayman Abdel-Razaq, Yazan Mohammed al-Husseini and Mahmoud Naim Ashayer.)

Isolated Childhood

The mother of the child Shadi Farrah, 14, from Kufr Aqab in Jerusalem, said that he has been held in what the authorities call a “sheltering center” since his abdution by occupation forces along with fellow child prisoner Ahmad al-Zaatari about two years ago as they returned from school. The Israeli court later claimed that they were found to have a knife when searched. The occupation court held over 20 sessions in the trial of her son and he was considered the youngest prisoner in Israeli prisons.

She added that her son suffers from very difficult and complex psychological conditions in prison at his young age and needs psychological and moral support in particular as he is held in a “reform” institution accompanied by “criminal” prisoners.

Part 3: Arrests and allegations of “incitement” on Facebook

The phenomenon of the arrest of Palestinians for posting on Facebook under the pretet of “incitement” constitutes a new, punitive policy of the occupation authorities to bring as many children and young people as possible in prisons. Since the beginning of 2017, 220 Palestinians have been arrested and imprisoned on charges of publication of articles and opinions on Facebook and social media pages.

The Israeli military courts in the West Bank base these charges of “incitement” on Article 85 (1)(f) and (g) of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945, which forbids the authorship or possession of any illegal book, account, journal, publication or advertisement.

In the event that Palestinians from Jerusalem are convicted of incitement, the occupation bases its charges on Article 144, section (d)(2) of the Penal Code of 1977, where paragraph (a) stipulates that:

Publishing publications for the commission of an act of violence or terrorism, or in sympathy or encouragement for acts of violence or terrorism, or displaying support for such acts, and in accordance with the contents and circumstances of the publication, being that there is a real possibility that this publication would lead to acts of violence or terrorism, can result in imprisonment for 5 years.

During October 2017, the prisoner Abdel-Salam Jihad al-Masri, 23, from the village of Aqaba near Tubas, was transferred to administrative detention for four months after serving a sentence of three months imprisonment. Al-Masri was seized by Israeli forces on 1 August 2017 and accused of incitement for posting on his Facebook page. He was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment and a fine of 2,000 NIS ($500 USD) for incitement. On 17 October 2017, he was taken once more to the Israeli military court, sent back to prison and told that he was transferred to administrative detention for four more months, on the grounds that he is a threat to the security of the occupation state, ostensibly because of his writings on Facebook.

The occupation authorities claim that the imprisonment of activists on the basis of writing on social media is the only means to prevent a danger to the security of the occupation, but it seems to have become a clear means by the occupation of silencing voices and violating the right of expression, and to create new policies to serve as a tool of arrests and repression in order to deny Palestinian freedom of expression. Facebook is an electronic space that does not reflect factual acts. It is a space where writers express themselves poetically and emotionally. It is not acceptable for this to be used as an excuse to restrict freedom of expression or muzzle Palestinian voices. It is not an acceptable or reasonable conclusion for occupation courts to interpret Facebook posts as actual acts rather than writing on screens; it is a wrongful and unfair comparison.

Section 4: Legal Analysis

This report presents the legal protections under international humanitarian and human rights law to detainees, related to the types of Israeli violations during the reporting period and the legal rules that prohibit such violations, as follows:

1 – The arbitrary detention of Palestinian citizens violates the legal guarantees related to the prohibition of arbitrary detention in international human rights law, including article 9 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 9 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976).

2 – The policy of administrative detention by the occupation state, in which detention is carried out on the basis of secret evidence and without any charge against the detainee, constitutes a direct violation of fair trial guarantees under the following legal principles:

a) It is contrary to Article 11 (1) of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that: “Everyone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.”

b) It constitutes a grave violation of articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1976, which guarantees everyone the right to a fair trial, to be informed of the charges against them and to be able to defend themselves. (Note: The Occupying Power acceded to the ICCPR in October 1991, and shall be bound by it.)

c) The failure to disclose any charges against the person detained under the administrative detention order precludes every possibility of verifying the compliance of the occupying state with Article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which states that “If the Occupying Power considers it necessary, for imperative reasons of security, to take safety measures concerning protected persons, it may, at the most, subject them to assigned residence or to internment.” It is impossible to verify whether this detention is permitted without knowing what the reasons have been and are.

d) Failure to inform the detained person of the charges against them constitutes a violation of Article 71 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which obliges the occupying power to report charges without delay. They also constitute a violation of article 10 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons in Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment of 1988, which requires the same.

3. The use of home imprisonment against children deprives them of going to school, which is harmful to their right to education, guaranteed under article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social of Cultural Rights of 1976. Denial of that right violates article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1990.

4. The arrest of Palestinians for posting on social media is a violation of their freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Politicl Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Conclusions:

This report sustains a number of findings, through our analysis of the practices of occupation authorities and the reality of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, as follows:

1) The occupying forces are continuing their gross and systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

2) These Israeli violations have resulted in severe suffering for Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.

3) The silence of the international community has encouraged the occupying power to increase their violations against Palestinian detainees.

4) The High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions have failed to fulfill their duties and have in fact encouraged the occupation authorities to escalate their violations.

Recommendations:

At the conclusion of the report, this series of recommendations is based on the above-mentioned facts and the systematic and gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the occupying power, as follows:

Recommendations at the international level:

1) Formation of a fact-finding committee by the UN Human Rights Council on Israeli violations against detainees.

2) Activate the mechanisms of accountability by the international community towards the perpetrators of violations in fulfillment of its legal and ethical obligations.

3) The High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions must uphold their responsibilities and pressure the occupying power to respect international humanitarian law.

4) International contracting committees of the Conventions must activate their role to pressure the occupying state to respect the standards for prisoners’ rights.

Recommendations at the local level:

1) Activating local solidarity campaigns with Palestinian prisoners.

2) Media support for detainees through intensified media campaigns.