Date: 19 March 2009
Time: 13:30 GMT
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Condemn Proposals to Use Palestinian Prisoners as Political ‘Bargaining Chips’
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is gravely concerned at the establishment of an Israeli ministerial committee aimed at intentionally worsening detention conditions for Palestinian security prisoners. PCHR has learned that these measures are intended to exert pressure on the Hamas movement.
The committee is headed by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, and includes Ministers Haim Ramon, Shalom Simhon, Rafi Eitan, Meir Sheetrit, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. It is reported that a number of potential measures are to be examined, including reducing the monetary allowances transferred to prisoners by their families to supplement living and dietary conditions, restricting means of communication and news sources, reducing family visits and education possibilities, as well as preventing any physical contact between detainees and their families. It is believed that these measures aim to reduce detention conditions to perceived ‘minimal standards’. PCHR contest that prison conditions are currently below international standards, as determined by, inter alia, international human rights law and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Worsened conditions may negatively impact on prisoner’s physical and psychological well-being.
PCHR affirm that using detainees as political ‘bargaining chips’ is a violation of their inherent human dignity: every individual must be respected and protected solely on the basis of their humanity. Manipulating detainees for political purposes violates their moral integrity, while negating their individual autonomy and humanity. The human rights to which a person is entitled simply by being human continue even when that person is detained or imprisoned. The fact that an individual is incarcerated cannot serve as justification for the deprivation of any right.
The imposition of such proposed measures is based on the presumption that Palestinian detainees currently enjoy above ‘minimal standards’ of detention, a presumption strongly refuted by PCHR. Approximately 11,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently detained in Israel, in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the detention of prisoners in the territory of the Occupying Power. PCHR has documented numerous cases relating to the torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees. Families in the Gaza Strip have been unable to visit relatives detained in Israel for the last 33 months, while families of prisoners in the West Bank are only permitted sporadic, infrequent visitation rights. Numerous prisoners are currently held in isolation, many for protracted periods of time.
PCHR affirm that, if enacted, the proposed measures would be illegal as they constitute collective punishment, and violations of international human rights law.
The prohibition of collective punishment is codified the Hague Regulations, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and forms part of customary international law. According to international law no person should pay for another’s crimes. Any restrictions placed on detainees in order to exert political leverage on the Hamas movement stand in clear violation of this fundamental principle, and are in conflict with the State of Israel’s legally binding obligations.
International human rights law contains strict regulations governing the treatment of detainees, and the respect for an individual’s human dignity. Article 10(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) requires that “all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.” Collective punishment also violates Article 14 of the ICCPR. The proposed measures, which include reducing family visits and the education possibilities open to detainees, violate the right to education – codified in Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) – and the right to family life (Article 10, ICESCR).
PCHR, gravely concerned at the establishment of this committee, calls:
1. For the immediate dissolution of the ministerial committee;
2. Respect for Palestinian prisoner’s basic human rights;
3. Improved visitation rights for families of Palestinian prisoners, particularly those in the Gaza Strip who have been unable to visit their relatives for 33 months;
4. Increased efforts on the part of the International Committee of the Red Cross, aimed at ensuring adequate detention conditions for Palestinian prisoners, and coordinating family visits;
5. Investigations into all allegations of torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment;
6. Appropriate health care and medical treatment for all Palestinian prisoners;
7. Improving conditions of confinement for Palestinian prisoners, in accordance with international standards.