The following report is prepared monthly by four Palestinian human rights organizations: Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society and the Prisoners’ Affairs Commission. Translation below by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.
International law has established specific standards for the protection of the rights of prisoners in order to regulate their conditions and preserve their human dignity. These standards are legal obligations that require the occupying state to fully comply with their provisions, ensure fair trial guarantees and ensure that no one is subjected to torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.
During March 2018, the Israeli occupation authorities continued their policy of the arbitrary detention of Palestinians, in violation of these international standards for prisoners in international humanitarian and human rights law.
The report includes five sections; the first deals with statistics on Palestinian prisoners, the second focuses on torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment (with the case of detained Palestinian student Omar al-Kiswani as an example), the third deals with the policy of isolation and solitary confinement, the fourth deals with violations of the right to life and physical integrity, and the fifth presents legal obligations of the occupation and presents a set of recommendations.
1. Statistics on Arrests
In March 2018, the Israeli occupation authorities arrested 609 Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, including 95 children and 13 women.
Monitoring and documentation by Palestinian human rights institutions indicate that occupation forces seized 155 Palestinians from Jerusalem, 113 from Ramallah, 85 from al-Khalil, 48 from Nablus, 47 from Tulkarem, 43 from Bethlehem, 33 from Jenin, 28 from Qalqilya, 24 from Jericho, 7 from Salfit and 5 from Tubas as well as 19 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.
In the context of the ongoing policy of administrative detention, imprisonment of Palestinians without charge or trial, occupation authorities issued 81 administrative detention orders, including 34 new orders, with the remainder renewals of existing detention orders. These arrests brought the number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons to approximately 6500, including 62 women, among them 8 minor girls. There are approximately 350 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons and 500 people held under administrative detention.
2. Torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment
In March 2018, the occupation authorities continued to carry out various forms of torture and ill-treatment against Palestinian prisoners. The case of Palestinian student detainee Omar al-Kiswani is an example in this regard.
On Wednesday, 7 March at approximately 4:30 pm local time, an Israeli occupation force stormed and invaded Bir Zeit University disguised in civilian clothes in order to seize the student Omar Hassan al-Kiswani, 24. Kiswani is the president of the Bir Zeit Student Council, a resident of the town of Beit Iksa. He was abducted from campus in a violent attack and forcibly taken to the Moskobiya detention center.
According to his statements to his lawyer from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society on 1 April 2018, he was beaten severely from the moment of his arrest, punched and kicked and also beaten with an electrified baton. This physical abuse and torture did not stop at the time of his arrest, but continued into the interrogation with various forms of physical and psychological pressure. He has been interrogated for up to 18 hours at a time for consecutive days as a form of psychological pressure and sleep deprivation; in addition, his mother was seized, brought into the interrogation center, and shown to him in an attempt to pressure him. He was prohibited from speaking to or contacting his mother. Physical pressure was also exercised in conjunction with this psychological pressure. He has been forced to sit through the interrogation on an iron chair with his hands and feet shackled or restricted.
In response to this mistreatment, he launched a 14-day hunger strike in protest. He continues to be held under interrogation and the Ofer occupation court extended his detention for the fourth time on 7 April 2018 to continue his interrogation.
3. Solitary confinement of Palestinian prisoners
Solitary confinement is one of the harshest punishments carried out by the Israeli prison administration against Palestinian detainees. The prisoner is held alone for prolonged periods in a dark, dirty cell, often with damp walls and only a toilet inside. It is common for the cells to be smelly and old and infested with insects and rodents. The experience of solitary confinement can cause significant psychological damage and deterioration to Palestinian prisoners.
The isolation rooms:
The isolation rooms are 1.8 meters in length and 2.7 meters in width. There is no room for walking or for most of the prisoners’ needs; this can be intensified when there are two beds in the room for prisoners held in joint isolation.
The isolation rooms have little ventilation and high humidity. There is one small, high window close to the ceiling, and the door has a small window, eight centimeters long and eight centimeters wide. It is common for Palestinian prisoners in isolation to develop illnesses, especially respiratory disorders.
One such case is that of the ill prisoner Musa Soufan from Tulkarem, serving a 33-year sentence. He has completed 15 years in prison as of the writing of this report and has spent the longest number of years in isolation. In recent years, he has been isolated continuously for 5 years under the pretext of a “secret file” that declares that he poses a threat to the security of the occupying power. He suffered from a tumor that was removed surgically on 24 December 2016, but he was given no further treatment after the procedure and remains concerned that the disease will return.
During his isolation, he has been deprived from communicating with the outside world or receiving family visits and is held in a small, poorly lit, dirty and poorly ventilated cell.
4. Violations of the right to life and physical integrity
Israeli occupation forces continued attacks against Palestinian civilians during their arrests. The excessive use of force by Israeli occupation soldiers and special forces has caused serious injuries to Palestinian prisoners and the death of Palestinian prisoners, as in the case of the martyr Raed al-Salhi, 21, of Bethlehem. He was killed in August 2017 after being severely injured when attacked by occupation forces who stormed Dheisheh refugee camp and attempted to arrest him.
More than 60 Palestinian prisoners and detainees have died as a result of medical neglect in Israeli prisons, the majority of whom were injured during their arrests by occupation forces.
On 7 March 2018, a special unit of occupation forces invaded Bir Zeit University to kidnap the student council president, Omar al-Kiswani. The occupation forces opened live fire on campus as they dragged Kiswani from the university. Kiswani himself was beaten all over during his arrest and was kicked in the military jeep on his way to the detention center as occupation soldiers cursed his family.
Palestinian detainee Abdullah Nayef Salem was seized by occupation forces at 6 a.m. on 26 March 2018 as he went to visit a grocery store near his home in Dheisheh refugee camp, where he was intercepted by a white car. An occupation soldier emerged and fired directly at his knee; he fell on the ground and was dragged and beaten by the soldiers before being taken to the Etzion military camp. He was then taken with Israeli occupation soldiers to Shaare Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem. He continues to have slight internal bleeding and is in stable condition after surgery.
5. 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 violations of the rights of detainee Omar al-Kiswani involve violations of the right to not be subjected to torture, contained in Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture. Torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment are contrary to the standards and rules in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners of 1955, and are among the offenses prohibited under Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
4. The expansion of the use of solitary confinement leads to severe human suffering, prohibited under Rule 31 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners of 1955 as well as the aforementioned legal principles in the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
5. The practices of the occupying forces in conjunction with arrests are an explicit violation of international standards on the right to life and physical integrity, in particular Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture.
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:
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.