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Ref: 30/2017

Today, 17 April 2017, marks the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. Over 6,500 Palestinian and Arab prisoners have been detained in the Israeli jails and detention centers under cruel and inhumane conditions.

The Palestinians commemorate this day since 1979, supporting the cause of prisoners detained in the Israeli jails, as it marks the anniversary of the first prisoner released in the first prisoners’ exchange deal between the Palestinians and the Israeli occupation on 17 April 1974.

This occasion comes in a time whilst the suffering of the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli prisons has exacerbated due to the Israeli violations and punitive measures taken against them. These prisoners are regularly subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including torture; denial of family visitation; naked search; night raids; solitary confinement; medical negligence; denial of education under a decision issued by the Israeli Prison Service on 20 July 2011[1]; applying the force-feeding law against prisoners on hunger strike[2]; in addition to other violations falling within the Israeli policy against Palestinian prisoners.

The Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails declared today moving to the hardest choice which is starting a hunger strike until their minimum human demands are met. Statistics available at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) shows that about 1,500 prisoners in a number of prisons and detention facilities has declared starting a hunger strike claiming a number of human demands, the most prominent of which are, inter alia, putting an end to the solitary confinement policy, offering medication to sick prisoners, constant communication with their families, ending arbitrary and degrading measures against female prisoners, receiving magazines and newspapers permanently and the right to education. It is expected that other prisoners would join them in their hunger strike which was described as a rolling strike.

Furthermore, data and statistics available at PCHR indicate that over 6,500 Palestinian prisoners have been detained in 22 prisons and detention facilities, the majority of which are located in Israel in a clear violation of article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that obliges Israel to detain the prisoners of the occupied country in their country until they serve their sentences therein. The majority of the prisoners are from the West Bank, including 57 women and 300 children. Moreover, the number of sick prisoners reached about 1,800, including 180 suffering from serious illnesses and 26 having cancer.

The Israeli authorities continued to place 500 under administrative detention in the Israeli prisons, including 15 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and former ministers, in a clear violation of their right to fair trial and right to receive adequate defense and be informed of the charges against them. The violation of the right to fair trial is part of the administrative detention policy implemented upon an administrative without a court ruling in a way that violates the fair judicial procedure.

PCHR, on this day, draws attention to the increasing violations committed against the Palestinian prisoners and the poor conditions under which they live in view of the Israeli authorities’ insistence to violate the rules of the international humanitarian law and principles of human rights to which Israel is a state party. PCHR further highlights that the international community’s silence encourages the commission of more violations without accountability.

Since it was established, PCHR has been following up the prisoners’ cause, offering them and their families the legal aid they need, working on unveiling the Israeli violations, and calling upon:

  1. The High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations;
  2. The international human rights organizations to follow up the Palestinian prisoners’ cause and rally international support to pressurize Israel to stop all its arbitrary practices against the Palestinian prisoners;
  3. The European countries to activate Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which provides that Israel should respect human rights as a precondition for economic cooperation; and
  4. The UN bodies, International Committee of the Red Cross and international community to pressurize Israel to improve the detention conditions of the Palestinian prisoners, stop torture and open prisons to observers until prisoners are released.

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[1] See PCHR’s website, press release no. 70/2011 issued on 21 July 2011, PCHR Condemns Punitive Measures against Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Jails

[2] On 30 July 2015, the Israeli Knesset approved in the second and third reading the amendment to the so-called “Law to Prevent Harm of Hunger Strike”. On 12 January 2016, Israeli forces force-fed Journalist Mohammed al-Qeeq, who had been on hunger strike for about 50 days.