Saturday, 20 April. 2024
Your Key to Palestine
The Palestinian Initiatives for The Promotoion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

April 17 marks Palestinian Prisoners Day and also the International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners. While the issue of prisoners has always been a top priority among the Palestinian people and leadership, this year, the day bears even more significance given the current negotiations on a prisoner swap with captive Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit.

At present there are nearly 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners in over 30 Israeli prisons and detention centers. Almost 900 of these prisoners are administrative detainees. This unjust arrest system, exercised by Israeli occupation authorities since the start of the occupation in 1967 allows for the arbitrary arrest of any individual who can be held without trial for a three to six month period. This period can be extended for an indefinite number of times without giving cause or filing any charge sheet against the detainee under the pretext of a “secret file.”

While administrative detention is sanctioned by international law, it is also bound by strict restrictions so as not to allow its abuse. Israel has flagrantly violated these restrictions in their continuous misuse of this type of detention, using it as a tool of collective punishment against the Palestinian people as a whole.

According to the Electronic Intifada, Israeli occupation authorities also arrested a total of 700 Palestinian children throughout the course of 2006, 25 of whom were placed under administrative detention.

Over the past 40 years of the Israeli occupation, hundreds and thousands of Palestinians have endured the dismal conditions of Israeli prisons. This includes several torture tactics during the interrogation of Palestinian suspects. Palestinian prisoners have offered testimonies describing prolonged sleep deprivation, shabah (crouching on a small chair with hands tied behind the back and a bag over the head), shaking and beatings during their interrogation sessions with Israeli Shin Bet intelligence officers.

Although the Israel High Court ruled in 1999 that several types of torture methods including those mentioned above were prohibited during interrogation, the law ruled that “moderate physical pressure” could be used in other instances not intended to extract confessions. This could include handcuffing a prisoner throughout his interrogation session – sometimes reaching 20 straight hours – in order to ensure the interrogator’s “safety.” Since then, there have been countless testimonies by Palestinian prisoners of continued physical and psychological torture methods used during interrogation.

Furthermore, prisoners endure difficult conditions such as damp and small cells, insufficient medical attention and deprivation of family visits. According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, 14 prisoners have died behind Israeli bars since the start of the Intifada in 2000 due to medical negligence.

At present, on-again-off-again negotiations over a prisoner swap have yet to result in a final agreement. While Hamas handed a list of Palestinian prisoners over to Israel earlier this month via an Egyptian mediator, Israel quickly slammed it, saying it would not release any prisoners with “Jewish blood on their hands.”

Palestinians have been urged to hold sit-ins and protests for the release of all Palestinian prisoners on Tuesday and international protests in various world cities are also being organized on the occasion of Prisoners’ Day.

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