NEARLY 200 human rights organisations are holding Israel fully responsible for the lives and safety of six Palestinian prisoners who tunnelled their way out of a maximum security Israeli detention centre earlier this month and were re-arrested later.
A total of 199 organisations, in a joint statement released on Monday, called for the formation of an independent international investigation committee to immediately look into the conditions of their detention.
They stated: ‘According to the testimony of lawyers, Israeli occupation forces assaulted them harshly from the moment of arrest, causing multiple bodily injuries. The injuries necessitated hospitalisation of some of them as they had been subjected to unjustified violence and torture.’
They added: ‘They are deprived of sleep, and have been interrogated after complete sleep deprivation, according to available information. Interrogators have made death threats against some of them, and their relatives have also been arbitrarily arrested for the purposes of revenge.’
They demanded the ‘urgent formation of an independent, impartial and honest international investigation committee to examine the circumstances surrounding the arrest of the six Palestinian prison escapees, and to hold the perpetrators of violations to account.’
The rights organisations asked the Hague-based International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli prison officials responsible for the torture of Palestinian detainees. They also urged the Arab League and its bodies to support Palestinian prisoners, and to ‘activate effective mechanisms at the international level’.
Israeli forces have arrested over 100 Palestinians following the recent escape of the six inmates from the maximum security Gilboa prison.
Rights organisations stressed that UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Michael Lynk, should actively shed light on Israel’s systematic torture of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, and take the matter to the United Nations.
Palestinian resistance organisation Hamas is warning Israel of the consequences of repressive measures against Palestinian prisoners following the escape of the six earlier this month. There are reportedly more than 7,000 Palestinians currently held in Israeli jails.
Addressing a pro-prisoner sit-in outside the Red Cross headquarters in Gaza City on Monday, Ibrahim Mansour, a senior official from the Palestinian Captive Movement, said Palestinian people and factions would take ‘massive steps’ if the Israeli violations persist against the inmates.
Emerging reports indicate that the recaptured prisoners were severely beaten and that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) has put many Palestinian prisoners in solitary confinement and restricted their access to essential services.
The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has called on the International Red Cross to pay an immediate visit to the prisoners to ensure their health and safety. Since last week, thousands of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons have been facing a repressive campaign following the escape of the six inmates.
‘Israel’s decision to impose additional forms of collective punishment on the 4,600 Palestinians it unlawfully detains, including women and children, as well as their families, exacerbate the conditions of their illegal and inhumane incarceration. It is an outrageous and unacceptable indignity that is utterly incompatible with its obligations under international law,’ read the statement.
‘The State of Palestine holds Israel … fully responsible for the health and well-being of Palestinian detainees, including Zakaria Zubeidi, who was rushed to a medical centre in Haifa for treatment after he sustained extreme beating by Israeli police, especially in his face.’
In a statement released on Monday, the PPS said 100 prisoners of all factions at Ofer Prison in the occupied West Bank will participate in a mass hunger strike, after the prison administration reneged on its agreement to stop the punitive measures against the prisoners, and decided to re-impose part of the restrictions it had recently slapped on the inmates.
The US, EU and UK trade unions must immediately intervene and launch an international campaign to demand the end of torture in Israeli jails, and the immediate freeing of all Israeli prisoners. The unions must impose a trade boycott of all Israeli goods and services until all of the prisoners are freed, and a Palestinian state established with East Jerusalem as its capital.