The Israeli High Court decided, on Wednesday, that the Prison Authorities can’t bar the Palestinian detainees from meeting with their lawyers. The court’s ruling came after an appeal submitted by Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel ) on Sunday and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel .

On Sunday 29 August 2004, Adalah and The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) submitted a petition to the Supreme Court, in the name of eight attorneys and other human rights organizations, against the Israel Prison Service (IPS).

The petitioners demanded that the Court should issue an order instructing the IPS to explain why they are preventing attorneys, including the petitioners, from visiting hunger-striking ‘security’ prisoners and detainees.

The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) prevented lawyers from meeting the detainees since they announced their hunger strike, and in many cases lawyers have been denied visitation to non-striking detainees.

The IPS said, verbally and in writing, in several occasions that the reason behind barring the lawyers from meting with the detainees is the Hunger Strike conducted in the detention camp and prisons.

It is worth mentioning that the ISP has been obstructing, and in many cases barring, the lawyers from meeting the detainees prior to announcing the hunger strike.

Moreover, lawyers are requested to apply beforehand for a permit to visit the detainees at least 24 hours before the time of the visit.

Attorneys Orna Kohn from Adalah and Sonia Bulus from ACRI argued that there are no legal basis for the prevention of meetings between lawyers and hunger-striking detainees, and that this act even contradicts with the existing laws.

Both Lawyers argued that this act is “equal to illegal and prohibited punishment”, and that baring the detainees from meeting with their lawyers directly violates the prisoners’ basic rights to legal counsel, their constitutional rights, the rights to life, bodily integrity and dignity, in addition to the right to access to justice.

On the other hand, the petition argued that preventing prisoner-attorney meetings deprives attorneys of their ability to defend their clients, and to fulfill their professional duty, and invades their freedom to practice their profession freely.

“Prison wall do not divide prisoners from their constitutional rights, a the Court is obliged to safeguard prisoners’ rights, even when behind bars, the prisoners on hunger strike currently have no link to the outside world, which increases the seriousness of the situation, since the IPS is exposing the hunger-striking prisoners to danger and punishing them” the lawyers argued in their petition.

Nevertheless, the petitioners stressed the fact the even if the IPS considers the Hunger Strike a breach of prison regulations, they cannot and do not have the right to punish the prisoners and detainees by preventing them from meeting their lawyers.