The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns the decision taken by the Israeli Prisons Administration on Wednesday, 20 July 2011, to stop the higher education program provided to the Palestinian prisoners.PCHR calls on the international community to exert pressure on Israel and compel it to respect international law and put an end to the systematic and continued inhumane and degrading treatment of more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and detention centres.

The gravity of this decision is that it forms part of a series of measures taken by Israeli occupation authorities against Palestinian prisoners following actual orders given to the Israeli Prisons Administration by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the end of last month to reduce what he termed as ‘advantages granted’ to Palestinian prisoners.

Other measures taken against prisoners include intensifying searching prisoners after forcing them to take off their clothes and placing Palestinian leaders, in Israeli jails, in solitary confinement. Palestinian prisoners have responded by declaring a set of actions in protest of such escalations. Prisoners went on a hunger strike for 10 sporadic days over the past two months.

This decision by the Israeli Prisons Administration is part of a general policy adopted by Israeli occupation authorities against Palestinian prisoners who are subjected to cruel living conditions as well as inhumane and degrading treatment, including torture, deteriorating health conditions and medical negligence towards prisoners – including those suffering from serious illnesses.

This has, in some cases, led to death. This decision is extremely serious because it is based on instructions given from the top of the Israeli political establishment.
Israeli occupation authorities have unprecedentedly intensified their arbitrary measures against Palestinian prisoners following the capture of an Israeli soldier Gilat Shalit in June 2006 by members of the Palestinian resistance.

Recent measures taken against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are a continuation of threats voiced by Netanyahu to stop the “advantages” granted to Palestinian prisoners in response to Hamas’ continued refusal to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Gilat Shalit.

In addition to denying hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank their visitation rights, Palestinian prisoners from the Gaza Strip have been denied their visitation rights for five years.

There are more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in 22 Israeli jails and detention centres mostly established inside Israel – a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, especially Article 76 which compels the occupying State to hold detainees from the occupied territory in the occupied territory until serving their sentences therein, if convicted.

There are approximately 700 Palestinian prisoners from the Gaza Strip in Israeli jails (including six prisoners detained in accordance with the Unlawful Combatants Law). There are 400 Palestinian prisoners from Jerusalem and Palestinian communities inside Israel.

Palestinian prisoners include 251 children and 37 women as well as 307 prisoners who were arrested before signing the Oslo Accords in 1993. There are also 126 prisoners who have served more than 20 years in prison, including 27 prisoners who have served more than 25 years in jail.

There are 214 Palestinians and 19 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, mostly from the Change and Reform Bloc affiliated to Hamas, who are placed in administrative detention.

Since its establishment, PCHR has systematically and continually followed up the cases of thousands of prisoners in Israeli jails. PCHR has provided legal aid to prisoners and their families.

PCHR has built relevant legal files and submitted them to international forums aimed to improve prisoners’ conditions and release them, as well as to prosecute Israeli officials, at both political and security level, for crimes committed against Palestinian prisoners.

PCHR strongly condemns these measures which constitute reprisals and collective punishment prohibited under international law, including Article 33 of the Geneva Fourth Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and calls upon:

1. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to submit reports on the situation to the Human Rights Council in order to exert pressure on Israel to stop its practices against Palestinian prisoners.

2. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to intervene in order to put an end to punitive measures taken by Israeli occupation authorities against Palestinian prisoners.

3. International human rights organizations to follow up cases of Palestinian prisoners and request their governments to exert pressure on Israel to stop its arbitrary practices against Palestinian prisoners and release them.