Currently there are, according to B’T selem “4,484 Palestinians - security detainees, confined in Israeli prisons.” Family contact is virtually impossible for prisoners, most of who are held inside Israel. This contravenes international law in the form of the universally trumpeted Fourth Geneva Convention (Article’s 49 & 76), consistently violated and disregarded by Israel.
International laws - legally binding upon Israel, who are not above the rule of law, must be respected and enforced. Richard Falk UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, in the UN news 2/5/12 called “on the international community to ensure that Israel complies with international human rights laws and norms in its treatment of Palestinian prisoners.” The UN makes its feelings clear in the ‘Question of Palestine Administrative Detention’ report (UNQAP) when it says, Israel “has historically ratified international agreements regarding human rights protection, whilst at the same time refusing to apply the agreements within the Occupied Palestinian Territory, attempting to create legal justifications for its illegal actions.” A comprehensive list of international legally binding agreements dutifully signed, ratified and consequently disregarded by various Israeli governments are cited by the UN, which sits hands tied, impotent it seems in the face of Israel’s illegal and violent occupation (a fact that cannot be stated often or loudly enough), submissive to the imperialist Godfather: America.
Since the six-day war in 1967 an estimated 750,000 Palestinians have been incarcerated in Israeli prisons, including 23,000 women and 25,000 children. This constitutes, Richard Falk states “approximately 20 per cent of the total Palestinian population in the occupied territory or 40 per cent of the Palestinian male population there.” Staggering figures of those personally imprisoned, whist a whole nation is held captive intimidated by an illegal occupying power upon their homeland.
HUNGRY FOR JUSTICE
On the 14th May a major hunger strike by Palestinians held captive within Israeli prisons ended, just in time to save the lives of two prisoners close to death, having not eaten for 77 days. Protesting at their treatment in custody, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) use of solitary confinement, torture during interrogation and inside prison and administrative detention, which allows for incarceration without charge.
Israel through the IPS responded to the strike with their customary brutality, assaulting striking detainees and imposing, Amnesty found in ‘Starved of Justice. Palestinians detained without Trial (SOJ),’ “systematic measures to punish hunger-striking prisoners and detainees and pressure them to end their strikes, putting their lives at risk. These measures included solitary confinement; preventing the detainees from contact with family members and lawyers; refusing to transfer hunger strikers whose health was in danger to hospitals suitable for their condition.” In fact many of the very issues the strikers were protesting about.
An agreement was reached between the Palestinians prisoners and the IPS, in which The United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL) 4thJune 2012 reports, “Israel committed to meeting some of the prisoners’ demands in exchange for security guarantees.” The UN goes on to say, “As part of the deal, Israel committed to ease conditions as long as prisoners refrained from “security activity” inside Israeli prisons, such as “recruiting people for terrorist mission.”
By ‘easing conditions’ Israel committed to move prisoners from solitary confinement into the main block, - in every probability they ought not have been held in isolation to begin with and agreed to allow family visits from Gaza, denied since June 2007 when Hamas, to the fury of Israel, was democratically elected and took over governance of the Gaza Strip. However ‘limitations’ are to be placed upon family visits, the details of which Israel has yet to clarify.
They also agreed to not extend the detention of those being held under the contentious and illegal as employed by Israel, administrative detention order providing there is no “new information that requires their detention” Such ‘new information’ would no doubt be conveniently filed within top-secret folders denying open scrutiny, and remain undisclosed on ‘security’ reasons.
All measures written into the agreement are long overdue, they constitute the minimum conditions that should be adhered to within any law-abiding society and if implemented, would be a positive move. This failure by Israel to honour the agreement, their word and signature, will surprise nobody but disappoint many. The Israeli authorities cannot be trusted, close monitoring of any agreements the IPS/IDF sign up to is required and clear methods of implementation and indeed enforcement are necessary, although historically neither happen. For standing behind Israel, supporting them ideologically and diplomatically, arming and financing every area of illegal action of the occupation of Palestine, is of course their partner in crime, America.
A key issue in the hunger strikers protest was administrative detention, a brutal relic from an imperial past. The darkest page within a catalogue of abuse and judicial arrogance, it is one of a series of suppressive measures written into the ‘Defence (Emergency) Regulations’, that formed part of the British authorities rule-book in mandatory Palestine to control the ‘Great Arab Revolt’ against British colonial rule and the influx of Jews in 1937.
Administrative detention gives the occupying Israeli authorities the power to detain Palestinians (or indeed Israelis) without charge, withhold any evidence and to hold them ‘presumed guilty’ and as B’T Selem states, “since detainees do not know the evidence against them, they are unable to refute it.”
Administrative detention should not, the UN go on to say “be used as a substitute for criminal prosecution when there is insufficient evidence.” As it clearly is being used by Israel, whose use of AD, like of course pretty much everything the Israeli forces are doing within the Occupied Palestinian Territories, “does not meet international standards set by international law” (UNQAP) In fact the UN report found that Israel contravenes the laws that apply to the use of administrative detention, the list of violations warrants inclusion in full, Israel they state:
*Widely practices the use of torture and corporal punishment;
*Deports and incarcerates administrative detainees outside the Occupied Palestinian Territory;
*Uses administrative detention as a form of collective punishment;
*Engages in humiliating and degrading treatment of administrative detainees;
*Administrative detainees are usually not informed precisely of the reasons for their detention;
*Is obliged to release administrative detainees as soon as the reason for the detention ceases to exist;
*Detainees are not given the right to communicate with their families.
*Israel fails to separate administrative detainees from the regular prison population;
*The conditions of detention regularly fall below an adequate standard required by international law; and, In the case of child detainees, Israel regularly fails to take into account the best interests of the child as required under international law.
The tone of frustration is heard within every exasperated UN sentence. Israel tramples on international law, believing themselves above and beyond its reach.
WORDS AND ACTION
The UN secretary General, Ban Ki Moon in The Guardian (13/5/12) “urged that those detained must be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees or released without delay.” To all rational minded people, this is the correct and right course of action, echoed by Amnesty (SOJ) “Israel has a duty to uphold due process and fair trial rights, and to take effective action to end torture and other ill treatment of detainees.” Fine words and right, Israel however listens not to such pronouncements.
It is time long overdue that Israel was treated as the criminal state it is, one that disregards the law, tramples on human rights and sees itself as unaccountable. Action is needed to support such calls for the observation of human rights enforce the repeated demands for justice. Let Israel, who has imprisoned a nation’s people, be placed in solitary confinement, subjected to sanctions and forced to honour agreements and the rule of law, international and indeed domestic.
Perhaps then, after so many painful years, the suffering of the Palestinian people would come to an end and a gentle peace would be allowed to settle upon what was once the Holy Land.