PRESS RELEASEIssued at @ 9am GMT 16 April 1997

The Israeli government Continues to Detain More than

3,000 Palestinian and Arab Prisoners

The 17th of April 1997 marks the annual remembrance of Palestinian Prisoner Day and the celebration of the first day of the Muslim holiday, Eid Al-Adha. On this day more than 3,000 Palestinian and Arab detainees will celebrate yet another Eid behind bars away from their families, enduring unsatisfactory living conditions and severe suffering due to the violations of internationally accepted standards of treatment of prisoners and detainees by the Israeli prison administration.

Despite an atmosphere of peace that should be prevailing in the region and despite the agreements to release Palestinian prisoners signed between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Israeli government, the Israeli government continues to fall short of fulfilling its obligations.

As of today, only 5,356 prisoners have been released. These releases have been in various phases according to criteria implemented by the Israeli government, such as releasing those who have completed or nearly completed their original sentences.

The continued detention of these prisoners becomes an even more critical issue in light of the apparent escalation of violations of the rights of Arab and Palestinian prisoners and the escalation of measures of oppression. Due to the recent decisions of the Israeli High Court in the last year, the physical and mental well-being of Palestinian detainees is in real danger. Because the Israeli High Court announced the decisions to allow for the use of physical and psychological pressure on Palestinian detainees a legal umbrella has been established to protect the Israeli General Security Service personnel from their crimes.

The “pressure” allowed for under the High Court rulings is a grave breech of the Geneva Convention and the UN Convention Against Torture and international customary law, both of which are binding upon the Israeli government.

In addition, the Israeli government continues to impose severe restrictions on the visitations of lawyers and family members Israeli prisons. Frequently, full bans are placed on visitations of lawyers to meet with their clients and/or families to visit their relatives held in Israeli jails.

These actions are a violation of the provisions provided in the Fourth Geneva Convention relevant to the protection of civilian persons in times of war. Article 116 states, “Every internee shall be

allowed to receive visitors, especially near relatives, at regular intervals and as frequently as possible.” Moreover, it is a violation of United Nations minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners and goes against all confidence building measures set-out in the peace accords between the PLO and the Israeli government.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights continues its appeal to the International community to fulfil their obligations under international law to ensure the protection of Palestinian prisoners and for the Israeli government to fulfil its legal obligations to release immediately and unconditionally Palestinian prisoners still incarcerated in Israeli jails.