Wednesday, April 18, 2012

3,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israel on hunger strike !

The majority of the 4,699 Palestinians being currently held in Israeli prisons refused their meals on Prisoners’ Day, while 1,200 of them promise to hunger strike indefinitely to protest against unfair conditions.

­The other 2,300 have refused to eat any food for the whole of Tuesday.

Later on Tuesday Israel is to release Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, 33, who attracted worldwide media attention after spending 66 days on hunger strike – the longest in Palestinian history.

In Palestinian authority practically every person has a relative or acquaintance that has spent or is spending time in Israeli prison. Palestinians consider those jailed as freedom fighters, whichever setup they belong to, be it Hamas, Islamic Jihad or any other Palestinian organization.

Israel has 17 detention facilities across the country and the West Bank. According to Israeli data, 3,864 of the total number of prisoners are from the occupied West Bank, 475 are from Gaza and 360 are Arab Israelis or from Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The Palestinian data says that 534 prisoners – more than one in 10 – are serving a life sentence.

Israeli rights group B'Tselem also gives figure of 203 jailed Palestinian minors, 31 of whom are under 16 years old.

Israeli also use an “administrative detention” legislative that dates back to British protectorate of the region. This procedure allows Israel to detain suspects indefinitely without charges being brought against them, simply by repeating the implied maximum six-month periods of detention time after time.

At the moment there are 319 persons under “administrative detention” in Israel.

Last year the number of Palestinians in Israeli jails considerably reduced after the release of 1,027 prisoners in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, a swap deal between Palestine’s Hamas and official Tel-Aviv after years of negotiations.

All in all, since 1967, when Israel occupied East Jerusalem as a result of Six-Day War, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, some 700,000 Palestinians have seen the daylight from behind the bars of Israeli prisons. This is equivalent to 20 per cent of the total population of the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian civil society and human rights organisationsmark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day with call for action against Israeliprison contractor G4S

17 April 2012

Joint Statement

Today, on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, we the undersigned Palestiniancivil society and human rights organisations salute all Palestinianpolitical prisoners, especially those engaging in brave civildisobedience through ongoing hunger strikes in protest to the ongoingviolations of human rights and international law. Emphasizingimprisonment as a critical component of Israel’s system of occupation,colonialism and apartheid practiced against the Palestinian people, wecall for intensifying the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)campaign to target corporations profiting directly from the Israeliprison system. In particular, we call for action to be taken to hold toaccount G4S, the world’s largest international security corporation,which helps to maintain and profit from Israel’s prison system [1], forits complicity with Israeli violations of international law.

Imprisonment of Palestinians is a form of Israeli institutionalizedviolence encompassing all stages of the incarceration process.Palestinian political prisoners face systematic torture and ill-treatmentduring their arrest and detention at the hands of the Israeli militaryand are frequently and unjustifiably denied family and lawyer visits.Wide-ranging and collective punishments, including prolonged periods ofisolation, attacks on prisoners by special military forces and denyingaccess to education are used against Palestinian prisoners in an attemptto suppress any form of civil disobedience within the prisons. As ofApril 2012, there were 4,610 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeliprisons, including 203 child prisoners, 6 female prisoners and 27 membersof the Palestinian Legislative Council. 322 Palestinians are currentlyheld in administrative detention, without charge or trial.[2]

The severity of injustice and abuse suffered by Palestinian politicalprisoners has been the drive for many prisoners to begin hunger strikesat different intervals in protest against harsh prison conditions,torture and ill treatment and Israel’s arbitrary use of administrativedetention. While the recent hunger strikes of Khader Adnan, who ended hishunger strike after 66 days, and Hana Shalabi, who ended her hungerstrike after 43 days, resulted in individual agreements, Israel and theIsraeli Prison Service’s policies therein remain unchanged and are nowaimed at containing the hungers strikers through punitive measures aswell as cutting off their contact with lawyers and family. Today, anestimate of over 1,000 Palestinian political prisoners are reported tohave joined in an open hunger strike in addition to at least 8 othersalready engaged in an open hunger strike, including Bilal Diab and ThaerHalahleh, on hunger strike since 29 February 2012.

In light of this increasing campaign of civil disobedience from withinthe prisons, we demand accountability for all corporations that bothenable and directly profit from Israel’s continued violations ofPalestinian prisoners’ rights being committed with impunity.Specifically, we call for action to hold to account G4S, theBritish-Danish security company whose Israeli subsidiary signed acontract in 2007 with the Israeli Prison Authority to provide securitysystems for major Israeli prisons.[3] G4S provided systems for theKetziot and Megiddo prisons, which hold Palestinian political prisonersfrom occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel in contravention ofinternational law.[4] The company also provided equipment for Oferprison, located in the occupied West Bank, and for Kishon and Moskobiyyehdetention facilities, at which human rights organisations have documentedsystematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, includingchild prisoners.[5] G4S continues to provide equipment to Israeliprisons.[6]

Moreover, G4S is involved in other aspects of the Israeli apartheid andoccupation regime: it has provided equipment and services to Israelicheckpoints in the West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’sillegal Wall and to the terminals isolating the occupied territory ofGaza. G4S has also signed contracts for equipment and services for theWest Bank Israeli Police headquarters and to private businesses based inillegal Israeli settlements.[7] A panel of legal experts concluded thatG4S may be criminally liable for its activities in support of Israel’sillegal Wall and other violations of international law.[8]

We welcome the news that the European Union has announced that it has notrenewed its contract for security services with G4S [9] followingpressure from groups campaigning for Palestinian rights, and salute theprevious decision of the Edinburgh University Student Association toblock its contract with G4S.[10] We call upon other public and civilsociety institutions and also on  private companies to follow suitand end their relationships with this company that acts in service ofIsraeli apartheid and other violations of international law. We demandthat the Palestinian leadership bans G4S from private and public tenders,and ask for the strict application of the boycott legislation in the Arabworld against companies cooperating with the Israeli prisonsystem.

We also note that G4S is being actively opposed by other civil societygroups elsewhere in the world for its role in controversial deportationand imprisonment regimes, abuse of workers rights, violations ofuniversal human rights standards and its involvement in the privatisationof public services. Let us work together to expose not only G4S, but alsothe roles of imprisonment and private security companies as politicaltools to silence and intimidate communities all over the world.

Amid hunger strikes and the highly publicized prisoner exchange deal inOctober, Palestinian prisoners’ issues have gained recent attention ininternational spheres. However, despite this increased focus and thecriticisms of these practices by United Nations bodies, there has been noinstitutional changes made by Israel in regard to the human rightsviolations being committed against Palestinian political prisoners anddetainees.[11] In an attempt to counter Israel’s unwillingness to changeits policies and the lack of accountability for its countless humanrights violations, alternative measures such as preventing participationby companies such as the G4S proves to be one of the few remainingeffective steps towards pressuring Israel to comply with internationallaw.  It is time overdue to break this chain of internationalcomplicity.

[4] Article 77 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer ofprisoners from occupied territory to the occupying country.

[7] Ibid.

[11] Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination ofRacial Discrimination, Israel, CERD/C/ISR/CO/14-16, 9 March 2012;Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee, IsraelCCPR/C/ISR/CO/3; Concluding Observations of the UN Committee againstTorture, Israel, CAT/C/ISR/CO/4,14 May 2009; See “Statement by RobertSerry UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process onPalestinian Prisoners, 10 February 2012; “Statement by the United NationsSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinianterritories occupied since 1967,” 20 February 2012.

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