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Palestinians Demand to Rescind the “State of Emergency in Prisons”

Rally for detainees, Ramallah.

19 December 2023 | International Solidarity Movement | Ramallah


This morning, ISM volunteers joined with the relatives, friends and supporters of Palestinian detainees at a rally in Ramallah, one of many held across the Occupied West Bank, demanding to immediately rescind  the “state of emergency in prisons”, introduced by the Israeli authorities in the aftermath of October 7 and which gives the National Security Minister (illegal settler Ben Gvir) unrestrained powers in relation to the conditions in which detainees are held.

Called for and coordinated by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees’ Affairs and supported by a wide-range of civic society groups, the rallies highlighted the huge upsurge in the numbers of detainees, and the severe deterioration in the conditions of detention, since October 7 under the emergency provisions.

Over two months, the number of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons has more than doubled to 7,800, with 4,605 Palestinians (including the 30 people arrested last night) detained since October 7. Of these, 260 are children, 150 women and 2800 are held under Administrative Detention (AD). These figures do not include detainees arrested by Israeli forces in the Gaza strip as Israel does not provide any figures on this.

Even before October 7, the number of Palestinians detained under AD was running at a 20 year high with 1,300 so detained. AD is an apartheid tool used by the Israeli Occupation Forces to persecute Palestinians. It allows for detention for a period of six months, indefinitely renewable, by a military court without charge or trial based on secret security grounds which are not made available to the detainee or their lawyer.

With the powers under the emergency provisions, the security minister has installed a brutal, degrading and inhumane prison regime. Detainees are denied access to visits by lawyers and family members and the Red Cross has been denied access to prisons to monitor conditions. Information from lawyers who have managed to speak with their clients provides evidence that detainees are held in grossly overcrowded cells, denied adequate food and medical care and outdoor exercise and association for education and recreation is severely restricted.

The use of cruel and collective punishment measures such as cutting off water, heating and electricity for long hours is common. Beatings and threats start at the point of arrest and continue within the detention centres.  As noted by Amnesty International in its report of November 8, torture is routinely used. Six detainees have been killed in the Israeli detention centres since October 7, with the suspicion that these deaths were as a result of neglect and torture.

The Israeli occupation authorities are committing serious offences against detainees, offences which are in breach of international law. Under international law, torture and other ill-treatment committed against protected persons in an occupied territory is a war crime. The detention of protected persons outside the occupied territory, as is the case of Palestinian prisoners from the OPT held in Israel, is also a violation of international humanitarian law as it amounts to forcible transfer.

Relatives and advocates for the detainees made it clear at this morning’s rally that Israeli authorities must immediately reverse the inhumane emergency measures imposed on Palestinian prisoners and grant them immediate access to their lawyers and families. Israel must also allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to carry out urgent visits to prisons and detention facilities and to monitor conditions. All Palestinians arbitrarily detained must be released.