At a time where the whole world is combating the coronavirus pandemic and States have adopted precautionary and preventive measures to defy the virus, Israeli authorities maintain the imprisonment of more than 5,000 Palestinians, including 180 children, 43 women and more than 700 patients in harsh and unsanitary conditions that are inhumane to say the least.
Imprisonment conditions for Palestinians in Israeli jails do not meet the minimum international standards guaranteed under the international humanitarian law (IHL), as Israeli prisons provide inadequate living conditions, and they are crowded.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has been closely following the concerning updates relevant to the reality of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails with the spread of coronavirus. Despite PCHR’s numerous and urgent interventions with the Israeli authorities, and its continued demands that Israeli authorities adopt immediately and urgently the necessary measures to protect inmates from the coronavirus pandemic, Israeli authorities have adopted a number of measures that further violates prisoners’ rights.
Israeli authorities have adopted strict new measures, including banning visitations with prisoners’ families, and prisoners’ lawyers since 17 March 2020, without offering an alternative mean to ensure prisoners have constant contact with their families and lawyers.
Additionally, Israeli authorities have neglected the continued and urgent requests for the immediate release of Palestinian prisoners who are considered at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, the elderlies and the chronically ill in particular.
Making matters worse, Physicians for Human Rights received a shocking decision by the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ) rejecting its petition to the Court demanding it order the Israel Prison Service (IPS) and the Ministry of Health to ensure proper medical services are provided for Palestinian prisoners, and take necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus within the prison system. The Court had determined that the petition did not include any legal demands that warrants its intervention; thus, it was refused.
The current situation is no different to the ongoing Israeli policy of medical negligence against Palestinian detainees, despite HCJ’s recognition in its decision of the seriousness of this deadly virus and the death rate of those affected is significantly higher among elderlies and patients suffering from chronic diseases, including heart disease, high-blood pressure and diabetes. However, HCJ’s decision ignored the need to take serious measures to protect the lives of prisoners in these categories of this deadly virus, including the need to immediately release them.
Therefore, the Israeli authorities are still failing to take urgent and serious precautions to protect the lives of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, despite the real threat to the lives of thousands of them.
PCHR stresses that Israeli authorities do not comply with its obligations towards Palestinian detainees according to the rules of international law, including the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners in addition to the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions.
PCHR reiterates its call on the Israeli authorities to take all serious and immediate measures, which no longer can stand delays or procrastination, including providing adequate healthcare and medical treatment for the prisoners and the need for immediate release of all detainees, especially the patients, elderlies, women, and children. PCHR confirms that Israeli authorities bear full legal responsibility for the lives of Palestinian prisoners.