On Monday 12th November 2012 Israeli authorities prevented Palestinian families from Gaza from visiting their family members who are being held in prisons in Israel and West Bank. It is worth noting that families from Gaza were not allowed prison visits by Israeli authorities from 2007 to July 2012.
Abdel Karim Mohammad Ibrahim Abu-Habel (22), has been behind bars since he was 14 years old, after being arrested in April 2004. His father, Mohammad Ibrahim Abu-Habel, says that: “Since Karim was arrested by Israel ’s forces in 2004, we have only seen him 6 times.”
Mohammad continues: “I have already lost one son, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2006, and having to live without seeing another son for such a long time is nothing but painful. Karim was arrested when he was only 14 years old. The last time I was allowed to see him was in January 2007, and it was just for half an hour. It has been over five years since I last saw him. His mother last met him in July of this year, for just fifteen minutes.”
The Israeli occupation forces arrested Karim, a resident of the Jabalia region in the northern part of Gaza Strip, when he was playing with his friends in an open compound near his house:
“When he was arrested in April 2004, we were not officially notified or informed by anyone of his arrest. We searched for him vehemently. It was only after a month or so when some of the people who had been detained with Karim in the prison in Ashkelon were released that we learnt of our son’s arrest. After having made numerous unsuccessful attempts to confirm that he was being held there, we finally received a phone call from a female soldier asking us to arrange for a lawyer, because Karim was going to be charged with a series of crimes and there was going to be a trial. His trial lasted for 2 years and he was found guilty by the Israeli Military Court in Erez on 15 different counts. He was sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment for blowing up an Israeli tank. I do not understand how anyone could think that my innocent boy, of just 14 years old, could have performed such an act. This is not the only time that Karim has been put behind bars though. When he was 10 years old he was detained by Israel ’s forces for 3 months, for no specific reason.”
Mohammad explains that locating Karim was the first challenge they faced when trying to arrange for a visit:
“Since 2004, Karim has been moved in and out of 7 different prisons in Israel and West Bank . Most of the time, we did not even know that he was being transferred to another prison facility. We approached the ICRC to establish contact with him, and it was through them that we learnt where he was being imprisoned. He was held in a prison in Ashkelon from the time of his arrest until early 2005, and then he was held in a prison for minors in Hasharon until 2006. When he was sentenced to imprisonment, he was first transferred to a prison in Adhemun, but has since been in various prisons, including ones in Ramun, Nafah, Naqab and Ishel.”
Even after locating Karim, making the arrangements for a family visit were not easy:
“In all of the 6 times that we have been allowed to see our son, we faced many problems. We had to seek permission to visit him and the authorities would only allow one family member to visit at a time. Out of these 6 meetings, not one was longer than 30 minutes, and sometimes the time was cut even shorter.”
Mohammad explained they tried to communicate with Karim using letters, which also proved difficult: “We managed to communicate with Karim through the ICRC, who would take our letters to him and bring some of his letters to us. Other times, Karim would send letters with his former prison inmates when they were released. Out of the 25 to 30 letters that we have received from him, most of them have been marked with black ink and a good part of these letters were unreadable.”
Mohammad and his family are now waiting for their son’s release, which is scheduled for April next year. The only recourse for them has been to approach the ICRC.
At the end of May 2012, 234 Palestinian boys between the ages of 12 and 17 were being held in Israeli prisons for alleged security violations, a 73% increase compared to the number of Palestinian boys that were held in Israeli prisons in December 2011
As per Article 37(b) of the Convention on the Rights of Child and Rule 2 of the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, children should be protected from unlawful or arbitrary detention, and the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child should only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.
A prisoner’s right to receive visitors, especially close relatives, at regular intervals and as frequently as possible is enshrined in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, and the Fourth Geneva Convention which also includes the right to communicate with family members.
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza , Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 – 2825893
PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip. E-mail: email@example.com, Web page