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Incarcerated Inside Israel

Source:  Eurasia Review

Detention without trial, the presumption of guilt, denial of family visits, solitary
confinement, torture, violent interrogation, and denial of access to appropriate health
care, such is the Israeli judicial system and prison confinement experienced by
Palestinian men, women and indeed children.

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.
The peaceful action initiated by two men held under the draconian administrative
detention order in late February, grew into a mass action, which began on 17th April
with, Amnesty estimates 2,000 prisoners on hunger strike.

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 aught 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. Ambiguity a weapon of control and manipulation utilised
by the occupying power. In addition they conceded to “ease restrictions on visits from
the West Bank, and improve the conditions under which “security prisoners” are being
held.”  All sufficiently vague as to be impossible to enforce or monitor.

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. A term increasingly and universally
employed to justify the unjust in a World built on fear and the perpetuation of injustice.

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. It should not however take a large group of
starving men to force Israel to observe the prisoners human rights including due
process of law.

Israel’s concessions however are indifferent to the rule of law, carefully designed to
be easily manipulated and over time forgotten, As Aber Issa Zakarni, the wife of
Abadallah Zakarni, an imprisoned member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine (PFLP) and one of those on hunger strike, told IRIN. “If this agreement is
implemented, it means a great victory for us and for human rights. But I am also
scared. In the end everything might just stay the same.”  Her fears are well placed, a
month after the deal was agreed Amnesty International in its detailed report ‘ Starved
of Justice: Palestinians detained without trial by Israel ’ (SOJ) found “the Israeli
authorities had agreed as part of the deal to release administrative detainees at the
end of their current orders ‘unless significant new information was received’, our
information is that it is business as usual when it comes to detention without charge or
trial,” in fact “Israel has renewed at least 30 administrative detention orders and
issued at least three new ones since this deal was struck, and family visits for Gazan
prisoners have still not started.”

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.

Imperialist Measures

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.  The draconian regulations were quietly pasted and copied
into Israeli domestic legislation in 1948, where they remain, legitimizing actions such
as house demolitions, extensive stop and search measures, the imposition of curfews,
and indefinite administrative detention.

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.” With no notification of the ‘crime’
for which they are being held, negating all process of law and assuming guilt until
proven innocent. It (AD) is as the UN (UNQAP) describes, “a procedure whereby a
person is detained without charge or trial.”

The observation of due process of law is a fundamental human right. The European
Convention on Human Rights, report on Due Process, states, “the rights to an
effective remedy, to access to court/fair trial, to fair trial in criminal matters, to
reputation, to freedom of movement and to property are all contained in the UDHR
(Articles 8, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 17 respectively).” Administrative detention is only
allowed under international law in extreme circumstances, it should the UN report
(UNQAP) makes clear “be used as a last resort and on an individual, case by case
basis.” Far from being exceptional over the past year the number of administrative
detentions has almost doubled, as of March 2012, from a total of 4,610 Palestinians
being held captive, B’T Selem state “Israel was holding 320 in administrative

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

  * 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. Laws, which,
when dutifully lined up in opposition to Israeli criminality and abuse, and consistently
implemented would be giant steps in righting the wrongs daily inflicted upon the
Palestinian people and creating the conditions for peaceful co-existence.

Administrative Abuse

Detainees under administrative detention are sentenced to periods of six months, at
the end of which the term may and inevitably is repeated, without limit. Those held
captive are not informed if they will be released or held for a further six months until
the end of their current term. The IPS manipulates inmates, tormenting them with
promises of liberty and threats of incarceration, cultivating hope in order only to crush
it, maximizing suffering and control. Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Israel: Stop Jailing
People Without Charge, report the case of one of the hunger strikers, Tha’er
Halahleh, 33 years of age, “Israel has held him in administrative detention a number
of times since 2000, for a total of more than four years in jail without charge or trial.”
Four years made up of six-month terms. As well as being illegal under international
law (as the Un report makes clear), this is psychological torture, no only for the
prisoner but their family also, who as Amnesty International in its detailed report ‘
Starved of Justice: Palestinians detained without trial by Israel ’ (SOJ) make clear,
suffer great anxiety, “administrative detainees and their families must live with the
uncertainty of not knowing how long they will be deprived of their liberty and the
injustice of not knowing exactly why they are being detained.”

Arrests and detention without charge based all too often on spurious ‘evidence’
secured by the unaccountable and secretive Israeli intelligence agency, whose claims
cannot be verified, must stop. A legitimate demand human rights groups have been
making for decades, Amnesty (SOJ) for one has “urged Israel to end the practice of
administrative detention and to release detainees or charge them with an
internationally recognizable criminal offence and try them according to international
standards” Even Israel’ supreme spinner Mark Regev, seems to agree, saying The
Guardian 13/5/2012 reports, “We would prefer administrative detention was only used
when there was no alternative”, sadly though, as Mark in his wisdom explains “in some
cases you can’t expose in a public forum your confidential sources and methods
because it may put lives at risk.” By ‘sources’, one suspects he is obliquely alluding to
Guantanamo Bay, where the use of torture is a useful method employed to elicit or
coerce whatever information, coined evidence is required.

Adding Torture and Insult to Injury

Whilst held by Israel Administrative detainees and ‘regular’ Palestinian prisoners
suffer verbal and physical abuse, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) 2011
report details, “Methods of torture included: insults; beating using batons, sharp tools,
feet and hands; tying the feet and hands to a chair and beating with batons or wires;
and other methods. Additionally, detainees were held in cells or small rooms, were
placed in solitary confinement, and were forced to stand for long hours in cold
weather or under the sun.”  All are illegal under international law. This time in the form
of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The practice of Isolating inmates completely from their family constitutes another form
of torture, Palestinian prisoners are not allowed family visits, denied access to health
care, contributing to deteriorating health for those with serious and chronic illness,
they face forcible transfers, deportation and solitary confinement.

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 nations 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 and end and a gentle peace would be allowed to settle upon what was
once the Holy Land.

Graham Peebles is director of the Create Trust

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