Wednesday, April 27, 2011

OPT: Every Fourth Palestinian Under Arrest


By Ronald Joshua

Courtesy of IDN-InDepth NewsReport

VIENNA (IDN) - One-fourth of the Palestinian population residing in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) has been put behind the bars by the Israeli government, making Palestinians the most imprisoned people in the world, according to a new report.

Besides, Israel is the only state worldwide that has child prisoners under the age of 18. They number 280. "Their living conditions are harsh. Prison administration refuses to allow mature prisoners to join them. Israel uses all sorts of punishment and tortures against child prisoners to recruit them as spies. They threaten them with rape and other forms of violence," contends the report by 'Friends of Humanity International'.

"There is no one single family that didn't experience the arrest of one of its members. The majority of those detained are male, which constitutes over 40 percent of the total male Palestinian population" in the OPT, says the report titled 'A year of Jails storming and attempts to weaken prisoners determination'.

"Since Israel began its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have been detained, representing approximately twenty percent of the current total Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories," notes the report released in Vienna on April 22, 2011.

The report points out that Israel has illegally detained Palestinian men, women and children through an extensive and systematic set of regulations that control every aspect of Palestinian life. They restrict or deny their basic human rights.

Authors of the report, Fuad Al Khoffash and Ghassan Obaid, call a spade a spade: "The conditions of the prisons and treatment of prisoners are horrendous, violating numerous international laws. The Israeli military, which governs the Occupied Territories, constantly changes or issues new military orders that are often unknown to local populations until implemented. Palestinian prisoners are then subject to Israeli military tribunals, which rarely follow required international standards of fair trial. Palestinians not only live under an illegal occupation, but also under an unstable and unjust system of law and order."

The majority of Palestinian political prisoners are charged with offenses under Israeli military orders of which there are some 1,500 governing the West Bank and 1,400 enforced in Gaza before Israel's withdrawal from that area in 2005.

These military regulations carry a broad definition of "security" and they ban, amongst other things, political expression. For example, according to Military order 101 it is forbidden to conduct a protest march or meeting (grouping of ten or more where the subject concerns or is related to politics) "without permission of the Military Commander". The distribution of political articles and pictures with "political connotations" is also forbidden under the same order.

Al Khoffash and Obaid add: "Israeli policies towards its prisoners routinely violate international law. Torture has become an endemic problem within Israeli prisons and increasing numbers of children are beginning to end up in Israeli jails. These general trends are areas of growing concern as they have remained unabated for decades."

While there is a general problem facing Palestinians in Israeli prisons, the report provides details of the suffering faced by Palestinian prisoners incarcerated by Israel.

The report says: "Year 2010 was not an ordinary year for Palestinian prisoners. Yet, if there is a common feature to describe the reality of the movement of prisoners and the captives, we could label it as 'A year of Jails storming and attempts to Weaken Prisoners Determination'."

Al Khoffash and Obaid add: "The In 2010 there was also the largest movement of prison leaders of Palestinian detainees in an effort to disrupt prisoners and create a state of instability within prisons. This policy intended to hinder the work of Prisoners Movement, to plan and organize their struggle within jails such as protests and hunger strikes.

"The year also witnessed a sharp decrease in the number of prisoners in Israeli jails which was 6500 persons distributed in dozens of Israelis jails. The year included various random campaigns to arrest people in the West Bank cities and villages. Such campaigns were carried almost daily. Indeed there are daily operations storming houses, villages and towns in return of releases of some prisoners. It seems Israel is trying to send a message pointing out that no Palestinian is immune and protected from these campaigns and operations."

The report has gathered some shocking information: The prisoners were tortured and their belongings were confiscated. They were hit, beaten, including with electric sticks and sprayed with tear gas. They were separated individually or moved to other departments in the jail, not dissimilar to what happened to those in Hadarim detention centre.

"In Hadarim centre, prisoners in division three were moved to division five. Walls between divisions were demolished while prisoners were deprived from taking electric equipments with them. Prisoners were corralled and put in a detention which lacked any basic provisions required in every prison. All this happened under a pretext of searching for mobile phones."

The same incident happened in Nafha detention centre, located in the desert which the Israeli army stormed more than ten times. On every occasion, says the report, confrontation took place between prison guards and prisoners, resulting in bloody attacks against prisoners and their leaders.

On one occasion, an Israeli officer, at Nafha detention (which host Palestinian prisoners of highest sentences from Gaza Strip), phoned the wife of one of the prisoners with abuse to evoke response, while searching his private belongings. The incident caused enormous damage and has pushed the Management of the prison to apologize and provide further assurance that an open investigation in the manner in which prison cells are raided and prisoners restrained by carried out.

"The Israeli state and Prison Service facility has escalated their humiliating and torture tactics. Rarely a week passes before another raid or attack against prisoner’s chambers. Such conditions made the lives of prisoners extremely difficult, forced to live in continuous tension fearing frequent and untimely attacks," the authors of the report note.