Since 1979, April 17 annually is Palestinian Prisoners Day, commemorating Mahmoud Hijazi's 1974 release - the first ever prisoner swap with Israel.
Acknowledging the day, the Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association highlighted the thousands of persecuted prisoners, launching a new campaign on their behalf "to raise awareness of specific cases....whose detention (pose) serious risks."
Ayed Dudeen is one of many affected, incarcerated without charge or trial since October 2007, the longest interned administrative detainee. A father of six, he's, in fact, been held for most of the past 19 years unjustly like so many others for shorter or longer periods.
Addressing Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, Military Judge Advocate General Avihai Mandelblit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israel's Permanent UN Mission in Geneva, Addameer expressed "strong concerns" on his behalf.
Serving as deputy director of the Hebron Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance and emergency services, his detention was renewed 30 times, most recently on April 11, 2011. Yet no evidence proves criminality, political or otherwise. Nonetheless, he's been denied minimal due process, preventing his right to a just defense.
Addameer expressed outrage about "the manifest breaches of human rights and international humanitarian law" violations against him, like so many others. As a result, the organization strongly urged:
-- his immediate and unconditional release, as well as others unjustly held;
-- an immediate end to arbitrary arrests and administrative detentions without charge for indefinite periods; and
-- respect for international human rights and humanitarian law provisions regarding arrests, detentions and treatment.
Addameer currently estimates about 6,000 political prisoners in Israeli prisons. The Prisoners at Risk Campaign highlights cases getting little public attention yet deserve urgent action. They include:
-- prisoners seriously ill at risk of further deterioration because of willful medical neglect;
-- those held indefinitely without charge of trial;
-- human rights activists;
-- those longest held; and
-- those severely tortured because they refuse to be silent about their ill-treatment.
Addameer's director, Sahar Francis, says:
"This campaign, and its focus on the mobilization of international civil society, is absolutely essential because the failure of peace talks, including Oslo (and subsequent sham efforts), to resolve the prisoner issue has amply demonstrated that without intense external pressure, Israel will never abide by international human rights and humanitarian law."
On April 17, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) headlined its press release, "Palestine Prisoners Day - Narratives Behind Locked Doors," saying:
Commemorated annually, the day "support(s) and recognize(s) Palestinians currently in custody in Israel" unjustly. According to the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the number ranges from the current low up to 12,000 or more, mostly for political and related reasons, including women and children.
From 1967 - 2008, Addameer reported over 650,000 detained, or about 20% of the total Occupied Territory (OPT) population and 40% of all males. Moreover, since the beginning of the September 2000 second Intifada, 70,000 were interned. According to PCHR, 760,000 have been held since 1967. Currently, it states, about 6,500 are detained, including over 250 children and 37 women.
Most are held in Palestine, but many others in Israeli civil and military prisons, in violation of numerous Fourth Geneva provisions, including Article 49 stating:
"....forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons (including prisoners) from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."
"PCHR notes with particular concern the many violations of human rights and humanitarian law that prisoners are subjected to while in Israeli detention. In particular violations of Articles 7, 9 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Israel is a State Party."
Moreover, children are treated like adults in brazen violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), defining a minor is anyone below age 18. Israel is a CRC signatory yet violates this law like all other international ones flagrantly.
On June 7, 1967, Military proclamation No. 1 justified detentions "in the interests of security and public order," subjecting all Palestinians to police state persecution. Hundreds of other orders followed, gravely harming their rights and well-being.
As a result, they may be held indefinitely as well as subjected to months of abusive, inhumane and degrading interrogations and treatment, then detained without charge or tried in military courts, denying due process and judicial fairness.
In confinement, Israel willfully and systematically violates international humanitarian law, including Geneva's Common Article 3, requiring:
"humane treatment for all persons in enemy hands, specifically prohibit(ing) murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment (and) unfair trial(s)."
Fourth Geneva's Article 4 calls "protected persons" those held by parties to a conflict or occupation "of which they are not nationals." They must "be treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention." They're entitled to full Fourth Geneva rights. Prisoners of war under Third Geneva have the same rights and those under Common Article 3.
Israel willfully denies them. Under the 1971 Israeli Prison Ordinance, no provision defines prisoner rights. It only provides binding rules for the Interior Minister who can interpret them freely by administrative decree. For example, it's legal to intern 20 inmates in a cell as small as five meters long, four meters wide and three meters high, including an open lavatory, and they can be confined up to 23 hours daily. As a result, they're subjected to horrific conditions, including:
-- severe overcrowding;
-- poor ventilation and sanitation;
-- no change of clothes or adequate clothing;
-- sleeping on wooden planks with thin mattresses, some infested with vermin; blankets are often torn, filthy and inadequate; hot water is rare and soap is rationed;
-- at the Negev Ketziot military detention camp, threadbare tents are used, exposing detainees to extreme weather conditions; in summer, vermin, insects, scorpions, parasites, rats, and other reptiles are a major problem;
-- Megiddo and Ofer also use tents; in addition, Ofer uses oil-soiled hangers;
-- for some, isolation in tiny, poorly ventilated solitary confinement with no visitation rights or contact with counsel or other prisoners;
-- no access to personal cleanliness and hygiene; toilet facilities are restricted, forcing prisoners to urinate in bottles in their cells;
-- inadequate food in terms of quality, quantity, and dietary requirements;
-- poor medical care, including lack of specialized personnel, mental health treatment, and denial of needed medicines and equipment; as a result, many suffer ill health; doctors are also pressured to deny proper treatment, some later admitting it;
-- extreme psychological pressure to break detainees' will;
-- widespread use of torture, abuse, cruel and degrading treatment;
-- women and children are treated like men;
-- NGOs like Physicians for Human Rights - Israel and the ICRC are deterred from aiding detainees;
-- denied or hindered access to family members and counsel; and
-- enforced conditions subordinating visits to national security priorities, requiring prisoners not be security risks, that persons applying for visits not have a security record, and whatever other stipulations Israel imposes.
PCHR noted special concern for about 700 detained Gazans, denied visits, phone calls, mail or other communications with family members for nearly four years with rare (usually one-time only) exceptions allowed. This outrageous prohibition, "exacerbates the already difficult conditions of confinement and constitutes a violation of international human rights law."
PCHR commemorated Palestinian Prisoners Day by releasing nine poignant narratives, including "The Mother of a Minor in Prison - Amal Abdul-Allah."
For many years, she endured enormous hardships. Her father was incarcerated for 17 years. Her husband was arrested and released in 1983. Her brother and nephew were also imprisoned, and in February 2009, Israeli her third-oldest son, Oudai.
"He was arrested on his way to Ramallah, at Beit Iba checkpoint near Nablus. We realized that he must have been arrested when he did not come home to sleep that night. He had been arrested in the morning and forced to spend the entire day and night at the checkpoint. He had to lie on the ground the entire time, until they took him to Megiddo prison the next day."
Family members weren't told of his whereabouts. The ICRC got spotty information. For several months, he was repeatedly transfered to new prisons. With one exception, Amal and other family members were totally denied visitation rights for "security reasons."
Family members occasionally get information from released prisoners, Amal learning that Oudai was healthy but emotionally exhausted, depressed, always crying, and wanted to go home.
Amal told PCHR:
"I am emotionally in pain because I haven't seen him in so long. The whole situation is very hard. I can't bear it. Also, when I saw him for the first time in court, it was very hard for me, especially since I hadn't seen him for (months). I could not stop crying, but I was afraid for him and I tried to hold myself together as much as possible. For now, what hurts me most is that I am not allowed to visit him."
Moreover, Oudai, like most other child or adult prisoners, is held on spurious charges, assuring months or many years of injustice and harsh treatment. Unlike detained Jews given due process in civil courts, Palestinians get none under occupation. Nor do Israeli Arabs for their faith and ethnicity in a Jewish state.
A Final Comment
On April 17, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) said about 1,000 Hebron protesters marked the day by rallying for release of Palestinian prisoners. "At the same time, thousands of prisoners joined a one-day hunger strike," protesting their treatment and legal rights.
Protesters included family members, local authorities, and international activists. According to former political prisoner Abdul Nasser Farwana's new report, virtually every Palestinian household has had members jailed. It explains that most of those detained are unrelated to alleged security issues; that torture is freely used to extract confessions; that no consideration is given women, children and those ill; and that overall treatment violates fundamental international law.
On April 17 and throughout the year, remember how abusively Israel treats Arabs for their faith and ethnicity, and that conduct this reprehensible no longer can be tolerated.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.