Al Mezan Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern over Israel’s collective punishment and retaliatory measures against Palestinian prisoners following the escape of six Palestinian inmates from Gilboa Prison on 6 September 2021—four of whom were captured in the days after.
Alarmingly, media sources report that Zakaria Zubeidi, one of the four captured prisoners, was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Israeli Rambam Hospital after being beaten while held in an Israeli interrogation facility. According to Al Mezan, on 11 September 2021, the four captured Palestinian prisoners appeared before the Israeli Magistrate’s Court, which has extended their detention until 19 September 2021.
To date, the Israeli intelligence services have prohibited them from accessing their lawyers. Concerns about potential violations being carried out against the prisoners are growing as circulating videos show them having difficulty walking while being placed in patrol cars by the Israeli police. In particular, Zubeidi presented a severe bruise on his face.
Shortly after the prison break, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) launched a series of collective, punitive, retaliatory, and arbitrary measures against Palestinian political prisoners, starting with a ban on family visits.
These measures also entailed an extensive campaign of raids and searches in prison cells, the transfer of Palestinian detainees to solitary confinement or other facilities, closing the canteens, and a ban on phone calls. Meanwhile, according to the Palestinian Society Prisoner’s Society, six Palestinian detainees are on a prolonged hunger strike, protesting their administrative detention. The hunger strikers are Kayed al-Fasfous (60 days), Miqdad Qawasmah (53 days), Alla al-Araj (35 days), Hisham Abu Hawash (27 days), Rayek Besharat (22 days), and Shadi Abu Aker (19 days).
On 11 September 2021, Al Mezan and partners submitted an urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Procedures—including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the oPt, the Special Rapporteur on torture, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health— calling for their intervention to safeguard Palestinian political prisoners’ rights against collective punishment and retaliatory measures by the IPS.
On 13 September, Al Mezan also filed a complaint to the IPS and its legal advisor calling for an end to the punitive measures and upholding the international human rights standards pertinent to persons deprived of their liberty.
Al Mezan recalls that under the Fourth Geneva Convention Israel is legally responsible for the life and wellbeing of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, including the four captured prisoners.
Subjecting prisoners to any form of torture is a criminally punishable act, as stipulated by Articles 146 and 147 of the Convention. Israel’s punitive measures also violate the absolute prohibition of collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism against protected people, as enshrined in Article 33(1) of the Convention.
The Israeli refusal to let the recaptured prisoners see their lawyers not only violates the rights to equality before the law and fair trial guarantees, but also fuels speculation that the Israeli intelligence service is trying to obtain confessions from prisoners through torture.
Further, Israel’s systematic issuance of administrative detention orders against Palestinians based on undisclosed information and indictments contradicts the basis of the right to fair trial, including a strong defense.
Accordingly, Al Mezan calls on the international community to uphold its legal and moral obligations vis-à-vis the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, and to bring an end to Israel’s collective punishment and retaliatory measures that are being meted out against Palestinian prisoners under Israeli custody.