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by Israeli Military (Democracy Now)
Israel violates Palestinian prisoner rights-report
26 Oct 2006 10:05:24 GMT | Reuters AlertNet
By Luke Baker
JERUSALEM, Oct 26 (Reuters) – Israel’s policy towards Palestinian prisoners is “arbitrary and disproportionate” and violates international humanitarian law by moving them out of occupied territory, an Israeli rights group said on Thursday.
B’Tselem, an independent body that monitors Israeli actions towards the Palestinians, said the vast majority of the 9,000 Palestinians being held by Israel were illegally imprisoned inside the Jewish state.
“Holding these prisoners and detainees in Israel flagrantly breaches international humanitarian law, which prohibits the transfer of civilians, including detainees and prisoners, from the occupied territory to the territory of the occupying state,” B’Tselem said in a 53-page report.
Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war. It withdrew soldiers and Jewish settlers from Gaza in August last year, but still has forces in the West Bank.
“Israel’s disregard for this prohibition is one of the main reasons the prisoners and their families are unable to exercise their right to visits in a reasonable manner,” B’Tselem said.
Israel’s prison system said in response it made all efforts to allow family visits to take place in a “respectful manner”.
“(The prison system) also acts in accordance with laws and regulations to check proof of identity meticulously, especially in light of recent events,” said spokesman Yaron Z
amir, referring to the stabbing of a guard by a prisoner’s relative.
In a response sent to B’Tselem in August, the Justice Ministry said it did everything possible, within the constraints of security, to facilitate visits and said that it had denied only 41 of 4,616 visits requested since December 2005.
“The state has been acting relentlessly, despite the many security and administrative difficulties involved, to enable the existence of these visits,” it said. The ministry did not directly address the allegation of the illegality of holding the prisoners in Israel.
B’Tselem said Israel had a duty to assist Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza to visit relatives in Israeli jails, but since 1969 that task has fallen to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Since it is often very difficult for Palestinians to get permits to enter Israel, prison visits end up taking place only every few months. Checks and delays when they do happen can mean that a visit of a few hours takes up to 24 hours to carry out.
“Israel’s arbitrary and disproportionate policy not only infringes the right to family visits, it also results in violation of other rights and principles of international humanitarian and human rights law,” said the report, entitled “Barred from Contact”.
As an example, B’Tselem said children aged six and above were not allowed to touch imprisoned parents, and said some four-year-olds were travelling to visit jailed relatives on their own because other family members could not go with them.
In a series of recommendations, the group called on Israel to transfer all Palestinian prisoners to detention facilities inside the West Bank or Gaza.
Short of that, it said Israel should ease the process of granting permits for people to enter Israel for family visits and provide more assistance in making those visits happen.
It also recommended that restrictions on minors making contact with prisoners should be lifted and that communications facilities for prisoners and relatives should be improved. (Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch)