Human Rights Group Decries Israel’s Imprisonment of 20 Percent (700.000) of Total Palestinian Population Since 1967


Palestine’s Prisoners | Pictures | Topic | Category – Torture | History | Category


Between The Lines – Clea Thauin:  Posted Nov. 16, 2011

Excerpt of speech, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus

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In mid-October, Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic party that controls Gaza, agreed to a prisoner swap. One thousand twenty-seven Palestinian political prisoners were traded for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas since June 2006. Many Israelis were horrified by the release of Palestinians, some of whom had been convicted for violent crimes against Israelis, but overall, the sentiment was one of celebration. However, some Palestinians were angry that many of the prisoners released were sent into exile.

On a just-concluded trip to Israel and Palestine, Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus attended a talk by Clea Thauin, the international advocacy officer with Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners support and human rights association. She discusses the large number of Palestinians who’ve been arrested under the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, all but 0.3 percent of whom have been convicted, and the growing crackdown on the rights of those prisoners held inside Israel in violation of international law, the group says they’ve documented.

CLEA THAUIN: Since 1967, more than 700,000 Palestinians have been arrested by the Israeli authorities. That number represents about 20 percent of the total population, and when you consider that most of the people who are being arrested are men, it actually represents about 40 percent of the male Palestinian population. And there are kind of five broad categories of offenses. The first one is named by Israel “hostile terrorist activities,” and that’s anything to do with military activities, but it also means any activity that’s carried out in the context of membership in what Israel calls an illegal organization. So, if you write a political slogan on a wall, or serve coffee to somebody who is associated with an organization that’s considered illegal by Israel, you can be arrested under this category of hostile terrorist activities. And you have to remember that all the political parties in Palestine are considered illegal. So all the political parties that form part of the Palestine Liberation Organization are considered illegal. So Israel’s official peace partners are also considered illegal. So, it’s really a means to arrest pretty much anyone you want and you can use the law to arrest whoever you want to.

The second category of offenses is called “disruptions of the public order.” And that covers a wide range of civic activities that you may have witnessed or heard about when you went to Bil’in. So any civic activities like organizing a demonstration or taking part in a demonstration of more than 10 people, writing slogans on a wall, distributing the Palestinian flag – all of these activities are considered illegal by Israel and can be punished by up to ten years in prison. And all of these offenses are categorized as disruptions of the public order.

So you have these hostile terrorist activities and disruptions of the public order, and those are the two categories that Addameer works on. Then you have three other categories that relate to criminal prisoners, and there it’s Palestinians being arrested in Areas B and C of the West Bank for either classic criminal offenses, like theft or murder or anything like that; or traffic violations – you can actually be arrested by Israel for violating traffic laws inside the West Bank. And then finally, you have “illegal entry into Israel,” and that’s usually Palestinians entering Israel trying to find work, and the majority of the criminal prisoners are actually Palestinians who were just trying to find work in Israel and entered Israel illegally.

Now, these Palestinians who were arrested for these offenses are held in 17 prisons, all of which, except for one, are located inside Israel and not in the occupied Palestinian territory. According to international humanitarian law, a protected person who’s arrested by the occupying power should be held inside the occupied territory, not outside of it, and transferring the population is illegal. So the very establishment of these prisons inside Israel is illegal. But not only that, it also means that visits by families and lawyers are very difficult, because families have to obtain permission to enter Israel from the Israeli authorities; very often they’re denied. Only immediate family members are allowed to go in and visit, so parents, brothers, sisters, children, nobody else from an extended family is allowed to visit. If you’re a Palestinian lawyer from the West Bank, you are in fact not allowed to visit your client inside a prison in Israel. So these lawyers will only be allowed to see their clients during the trials which take place in military tribunals that are located in the occupied Palestinian territory, so not only is it illegal, but it has consequences – not only families’ visits, but also the right to an effective defense.

There has been a steady worsening of the detention conditions in the past few years. In the early phases of the occupation, detention was seen as a time you could be educated, you could be politically involved because the prison life was much more organized. In recent years, more and more prisoners are being denied education, and in fact, just when the deal was announced, there was a hunger strike by a large number of prisoners who were protesting a number of measures that had been taken after a speech by Prime Minister Netanyahu on the 23rd of June, and those measures related to education, to family visits, and basically what Netanyahu said is because Gilad Shalit was still being incarcerated, Palestinian prisoners should be punished; they should not have – he called them “overly generous” detention conditions – and until the release of Gilad Shalit, all their privileges should be withdrawn.

So what happened after that speech is that all access to education was banned; prisoners were cuffed to and from family visits; in some cases, family visits were reduced from 45 minutes to 30 minutes; they had no access to newspapers, to books and other educational materials. They had limited access to TV and a number of other measures were taken by the Israeli Prison Service. So the prisoners went on a hunger strike on the 27th of September to protest all these measures, and then obviously, the prisoner exchange was announced in the third week of the hunger strike. But up until now, we still don’t know if those conditions will be reversed. So although they were all linked specifically to the detention of Gilad Shalit and Gilad Shalit is now free, there still hasn’t been an official announcement by the Israeli Prison Service that those measures would be withdrawn.

Find more information on the work of Addameer on our website at www.addameer.info.

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