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Detention Conditions in Israeli Occupation Jails Worst in 30 Years

May 11, 2005

from Prison Art Newsletter, Vol. 5, No. 2, January 2005

GAZA, Palestine, January 3, 2005

The Palestinian Ministry of (political) Prisoners and Ex-Detainees Affairs considered on Sunday that 2004 was the worst year for Palestinian prisoners, as detention conditions inside Israeli jails deteriorated to a level never seen in 30 years. A report issued by the ministry’s information department indicated that the year 2004 witnessed fierce attacks inside Israeli jails that reached all prisoner categories, pointing out that the most dangerous measure Israeli authorities attempted was to label those prisoners as terrorists, and treat them in the same way as Guantanamo prisoners in order to strip them of international sympathy. The report pointed out that the Israeli government has given the administration of prisons to radical military generals who deal with the prisoners in an absolute military sense, leading to the increase of oppression, persecution and aggression against those prisoners.

Mr. Riyadh Al Ashqar, director of the information department, said that since 1967 more than half a million Palestinian prisoners have been imprisoned in Israeli jails. “Since Al Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupation forces arrested about 35 thousand prisoners, eight thousands of them still inside the different Israeli jails. Of those still imprisoned, 361 children and 126 females in addition to about a thousand patients suffering different diseases, including paralysis, blindness and amputations. Al Ashqar noted that the administrative detention frequencies have increased drastically, a thing that caused the administrative detainees to boycott the court hearings to protest the renewal of their terms. 2464 administrative detainees are still inside Israeli jails, of them 434 have spent more than ten years, 140 spent more than 15 years and 16 spend more than 20 years, while five prisoners, including the oldest Palestinian prisoner Saeed Al Ataba, have spent more than 25 years in prison. The Ministry documented more than 2000 arrests this year, compared withy 500 cases in 2001. The number of deaths among the prisoners also increased during 2004, as 176 prisoners died inside Israeli jails, compared with 165 deaths until 2003.

Also, the year 2004 recorded an increase in the number of life terms, as the number of prisoners sentenced to more than one life terms in Israeli jails reached 444 prisoners, including Abdullah Barghouti, who was sentenced to 67 life terms in prison, which is considered the highest verdict ever made in Israeli courts.

As for detention conditions inside the jails, the year 2004 witnessed the revoking of kitchen access to Palestinian prisoners, and instead the kitchen was handed over to Israeli criminal convicts, and thus Palestinian prisoners refused to eat what those convicts cook as it contradicts their beliefs and traditions, forcing them to prepare their own food and incur more expenses due to the increase in foodstuffs prices. The prisoners also complained of the bad food being served in Israeli jails, which resulted in many food-poisoning cases among them. Additionally, Israeli jail administrations imposed many penal measures against Palestinian prisoners, including banning family visits, imposing high fines for worthless reasons, frequent transfer of prisoners from one jail to another to destabilize the prisoners.

One of the prisoners, Aladdin Al Bezyan, who is a blind man sentenced to 20 years in jail, has been denied family visits for four years now. Al Ashqar further mentioned that during 2004 a large number of female prisoners was recorded, as 63 out of a total of 126 prisoners remain inside Israeli jails. The Ministry of Prisoners Affairs report asserted that the number of patient prisoners soared inside Israeli jails, due to the bad detention conditions as well as decreased hygiene and lack of proper health care. The number of sick prisoners rose from 700 in 2003 to more than a thousand in 2004 including dozens whose conditions are serious and require immediate surgeries, according to outside doctors who reviewed their medical files.

The report confirmed that there have been a deliberate lack of medical attention by the Israeli Prison Service towards Palestinian prisoners, especially those hospitalized at Al Ramleh prison hospital, where 140 prisoners are staying with minimum attention. The year 2004 also saw the opening of new jails to accommodate the large number of prisoners being arrested every day by random arrest campaigns and raids throughout the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The ‘Gilboa’ prison was recently opened in the Bisan Valley near ‘Shatta’ prison, and can accommodate 200 prisoners. The Israeli Prison Service made this new prison to isolate the leaders of the prisoners’ movement. Israeli authorities also opened a new block in ‘Ayalon’ prison, which was previously a horse stable, and will be used to detain civilians, and later turned it into a block for Palestinian prisoners. Another new block was also opened in ‘Negev’ desert prison. As for weapons, Israeli authorities used a variety of chemical agents against the prisoners, such as hot pepper rounds that paralyze the prisoner and cause him to suffer excruciating pains.

The year 2004 also witnessed a grave escalation towards minor prisoners, as Israeli authorities dealt with them as ‘ticking bombs,’ imprisoning them and torturing them as adult prisoners, which is a blatant violation of all human rights law and international conventions. The number of patient children inside Israeli jails rose to 48, compared with 34 in 2003.

At the end of its report, the Ministry of Prisoners Affairs demanded all the legal and human rights organizations to urgently interfere and help the Palestinian prisoners, as well as expose the Israeli violations against them and intensify visits to Israeli jails to get a closer picture on the prisoner’s catastrophic conditions, especially patients and minors, whose detention lacks the simplest rights stated by the Fourth Geneva Convention.

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