Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Addameer Prisoners' Support and Human Rights Association[8]


  1.  Since the outbreak of the current Intifada in September 2000, over 27,000 Palestinians have been detained by the Israeli authorities, including women and children. By the end of September 2003, there were approximately 5,500 Palestinians being held by Israel, including approximately 500 administrative male detainees and three female administrative detainees (prisoners held without charge or trial for indefinite periods), 73 women and over 190 children.


  2.  Israel has detained and imprisoned over 650,000 Palestinians since the beginning of its occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967. This has amounted to approximately 20% of the entire population or 40% of the male population. Israel has, in effect, "criminalised" the Palestinian male population. Israel's mass arrests and imprisonment of such large numbers of Palestinians has affected every household with many families being left without breadwinners for months and sometimes years. It has had an extremely damaging effect on the society as a whole as political and religious leaders, leaders of civil society, teachers and Palestinian National Authority officials have been particularly targeted. It has also had a negative impact on the community's ability to involve everyone in the development of Palestinian society.


  3.  Administrative detention, or arrest without charge or trial, is being used as a systematic form of collective punishment by the Israeli military against Palestinians in the OPT. Between March and October 2002, the Israeli military rounded up over 15,000 Palestinian males between the ages of 15-45, in cities, villages and refugee camps during its military incursions (dubbed "Operation Defensive Shield") in the West Bank. By October 2002, over 1,050 Palestinians were still in administrative detention[9]. Administrative detention orders are issued for periods of one to six months and can be renewed indefinitely. Administrative detainees are not charged with a crime and are detained on the basis of "secret evidence" submitted by the Israeli security services and often provided by collaborators or extracted from confessions of detainees under extreme duress. Neither the detainee nor his or her lawyer is given access to this "evidence". Some of the longest serving administrative detainees have been held for years under this form of arbitrary detention, including Ahmad Qatamesh and `Ali Al Jammal who remained in custody for over six and seven consecutive years respectively, without being charged with any crime.


  4.  Under the Israeli military regulations in force in the OPT, a Palestinian child over 16 years is considered an adult, not 18 years as defined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory. In practice, Palestinian children between 12-14 years are being charged and sentenced (for example for throwing stones) in military courts for periods up to six months. Palestinian children over the age of 14 are tried in the same military courts as adults and given equivalent sentences, as there are no specific laws relating to "child offenders" within the Israeli military tribunal system. There are no juvenile courts and children often serve their sentences in adult prisons where they are usually not separated from the adult prisoners, which is illegal under international law. Children are sometimes held in cells with adult criminal prisoners.


  5.  The majority of Israeli prisons and detention centers in which Palestinians from the OPT are held, eg Ansar III (Ketziot Military Detention Centre) in the Negev or Megiddo prison, are located within the 1948 borders of Israel. This is illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Some military detention camps, such as Ofer, are located in the West Bank. Conditions in the military detention camps are inhumane and much worse than in the prisons.[10] Detainees are held in overcrowded tents that are often threadbare and do not provide adequate shelter against the extreme weather conditions in this part of the Middle East. Detainees are given inadequate and poor quality food rations; they are not provided with clean clothes or adequate toiletries. Many detainees currently being held who were injured during their arrest and those suffering from chronic diseases are not being given the necessary medical care.

  6.  Family visits to administrative detainees and political prisoners coordinated by the ICRC have been in practice virtually impossible for many people in recent years since permits are required to enter Israel. Those who are able to visit do so under difficult and stressful circumstances. The journeys in special buses are often long; visitors are searched and have lengthy waits before being able to enter the detention or prison facility for what is usually a very short visit. Visitors and detainees/prisoners are separated by wire fences.

  7.  Palestinian lawyers from the OPT are not given any special visitor privileges in order to meet with their clients. They are subject to the same permit and travel restrictions as all Palestinians from the OPT. Those few lawyers who are able to visit detainees are often strip searched, humiliated by soldiers, and sometimes locked up in rooms for hours while waiting for their clients to be brought to see them.


  8.  Palestinian detainees continue to be subjected to physical and/or psychological torture during interrogation; some have died as a result, such as Abdel Samad Hreizat, who died in Israeli custody on 25 April 1995 as a result of beatings and violent shaking during interrogation. The use of practices that constitute torture during interrogation have been legalized within the Israeli judicial system and permitted in individual cases where the Israeli security services decide a detainee is a "threat to state security" or a "ticking bomb" (a person who may be contemplating carrying out an attack in the future).[11] A Palestinian detainee can be interrogated for up to 180 days, during which visits by a lawyer can be denied for up to 60 days. Confessions extracted through torture are admissible in Israeli courts.

  9.  Israel continues to use isolation and segregation of Palestinian detainees and prisoners as a form of punishment. Detainees can spend extended periods of time in small cells isolated from other prisoners and are only allowed out once a day for no more than one hour. Detainees in isolation are also subject to other forms of punishment, including continuous shackling and denial of family visits. Detainees can spend years in isolation, for example Hassan Salameh who was put in an isolation cell for four years (1996-2000). Some detainees who have been kept for long periods in isolation have gone on open-ended hunger strike (for example Moussa Doudin and Ahmad Barghouti, who were both held in isolation cells for five and eight months respectively).


  10.  Israel released 400 Palestinian prisoners at the beginning of May and August 2003 as part of its "good will gestures" and "confidence building" measures to promote the Road Map. These releases were seen as derisory by the Palestinian community. Israel later re-arrested some of the prisoners who were released and the Israeli military continues to arrest approximately 300 Palestinians every month.


  11.  The Palestinian community regards political prisoners and detainees as the main issue in any political negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The success of future peace negotiations aimed at resolving the conflict will depend initially on the unconditional release and return to the OPT of all Palestinian political prisoners and detainees held in Israeli prisons or detention camps. Therefore, we recommend that the British Government support Palestinian efforts and lobby the Government of Israel to secure the release and return of all political prisoners and detainees.

  Two annexes were submitted with this memorandum—Annex 1: Addameer Briefing on Administrative Detention, 23 October 2002, and Annex 2: Summary of Israeli High Court Judgement regarding the detention conditions in "Ofer" Camp (H.C. 3278/02). These have not been printed. Copies have been placed in the Library.

September 2003

8   Addameer Prisoners' Support and Human Rights Association is a Palestinian non-governmental human rights organisation. Addameer was established in 1992 to offer support to Palestinian political prisoners and detainees and to advocate for an end to Israel's policy of arbitrary imprisonment and torture of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). It offers free legal services for prisoners, legal counseling for families of detainees, and representation on cases concerning arbitrary arrest and torture. Addameer also advocates for the establishment of a Palestinian society based on the rule of law and campaigns within civil society to promote awareness and respect for human rights within the Palestinian community. Back

9   See Annex 1 for information on the number and conditions of administrative detainees during this period. Not printed. Back

10   On 28 June 2002, a petition was submitted to the Israeli Supreme Court by 10 Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations protesting the inhumane conditions faced by detainees at the Ofer Military Detention Center. In the summary of the judgment, the Court stated that "even those suspected of terrorist activity of the worst kind are entitled to conditions of detention which satisfy minimal standards of humane treatment and ensure basic human necessities. We would not be human ourselves if we did not guarantee a standard of humanity to those detained within our custody. Such is the duty of the commander of the area in accordance with the foundations of our administrative law." The court ruled that detention conditions did not meet minimum standards, and that there was no justification for this, even if "Operation Protective Wall", during which the majority of detainees were arrested, was planned in advance. For the full text of the summary see Annex 2. Back

11   On 31 May 1987, the Israeli Government established a commission of inquiry to investigate the interrogation methods used by the General Security Services (Shabak) to obtain confessions from Palestinian detainees. The Commission, chaired by retired Israeli High Court Justice Moshe Landau, concluded that "the interrogation of prisoners who are accused of carrying out terrorist activities will not be successful without using pressure." The Landau Commission recommended the use of pressure that "should principally take the form of non-violent psychological pressure via a vigorous and lengthy interrogation ... However, when these methods do not attain their purpose, the exertion of a moderate measure of physical pressure cannot be avoided." (Clauses 6/4, and 7/4, Landau Commission Recommendations, 1987). On 13 January 1999, the Israeli Government submitted a written response to the Israeli High Court of Justice regarding appeals against various interrogation methods used by the Israeli Intelligence Service (Shabak), including "severe shaking", which resulted in the death of Abed El-Samad Hreizat on 25 April 1995. That document stated: "The Government decided to submit to the Israeli Knesset a draft law regulating the authority for special investigations conducted by the Shabak, including the authority to use moderate physical and psychological pressure". On 16 January 1999, the Israeli Attorney General issued an official statement asserting that the torture methods used by the Shabak while interrogating detainees, including physical pressure and severe shaking are "legitimate and vital methods," since they aim to prevent suicide operations and thus save the lives of Israeli citizens. On 6 September 1999, as a result of numerous complaints and petitions by human rights organisations concerning Israel's use of torture against Palestinian detainees, the Israeli High Court of Justice banned the use of four methods of torture which were previously allowed by the Landau Commission. These included the vigorous "shaking" of a detainee, placing the detainee in the "Shabeh" position, forcing the detainee into the "Gambaz" (frog crouch) position, and depriving the detainee of sleep in a manner other than that which is inherently required by the interrogation. (HCJ 5100/94, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel v The State of Israel et al, and six other petitions; High Court Ruling on GSS Interrogations). However, the ruling allowed for a loophole in the judgment, whereby the use of "moderate physical pressure" was allowed in cases of "ticking bombs". Back

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