ISRAEL HOLDS 7,000 POLITICAL PRISONERS – Israeli military courts prosecute 700 children a year

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‘THE incarceration and torture of political prisoners is an outright breach of International Humanitarian Law,’ says Palestinian ambassador to the UK, Manuel Hassassian.

‘Israel acts with impunity and acts above the law supported by so called western democracies. This charade should stop once and for all,’ he demanded. This Sunday, 17th April marks Palestinian Prisoners’ Day which is an international day of solidarity with all those Palestinians who are victims of Israel’s mass arrest and incarceration policies.

Currently there are 7,000 political prisoners in Israeli jails, mostly activists for human rights and they include university students, journalists, lawyers and any Palestinian that has attempted to resist Israeli occupation by throwing a stone or a Facebook post.

Since 1967, it has been estimated that Israel has held 800,000 Palestinian prisoners, approximately a fifth of the Palestinian population with 10,000 of these, women. There are presently 60 female prisoners in Israeli jails. Since 2000, 12,000 Palestinian children have been detained. Currently there are 406 children in Israeli prisons, the youngest is only twelve years old.

700 children under the age of 18 are prosecuted every year in Israeli military courts with the most common charge being stone-throwing which is punishable, under military law, by a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Attorneys or family members are not present at the interrogation of children.

As of last Friday there were 670 prisoners held under administrative detention. This means detainees are held without charge or trial on ‘secret information’ and can be held indefinitely as administrative detention can be renewed an unlimited number of times.

Systematic use of administrative detention is prohibited under international law and is a punitive measure which amounts to collective punishment. If detainees are put on trial they usual have to face military courts which convict 99% of Palestinians who are brought before them.

Human rights groups have documented many cases where Palestinian prisoners and administrative detainees, including women and children are subjected to mistreatment, physical and psychological torture. All suffer from inadequate healthcare and education and, in many cases, deprived access to family visits especially as prisons are not in the occupied Palestinian territories and family members need permits to cross into Israel which they are usually denied.

Since last October’s popular uprising against Israeli occupation which has seen an escalation of house demolitions, land confiscation and near daily killings of Palestinians, Israel has ramped up its arbitrary arrests. Soldiers conduct violent armed raids in the dead of the night in Palestinian cities and villages, ransacking homes and arresting dozens of young Palestinians on baseless grounds.

Hassassian stressed: ‘This mass incarceration of Palestinians is part and parcel of the ongoing violent occupation which violates basic human rights and contravenes international law. Showing solidarity with Palestinian prisoners will help hold Israel accountable for its human rights abuses and its violent ongoing occupation which is tearing the fabric of Palestinian life apart.’

As Palestinians prepared to mark Prisoners’ Day on April 17, a day to be in solidarity with thousands of Palestinian political prisoners by demanding their freedom from Israeli jails, the US Campaign to End the Occupation launched a new website G4S Facts. This highlights the various injustices perpetrated by G4S, the world’s largest private security company, in the United States, Palestine, and beyond.

G4S Facts documents the various abuses of the company ranging from its complicity in Israel’s oppression of Palestinians to its transportation of undocumented immigrants in the United States, a service it brands as ‘The Bus No One Wants to Catch – The End of the Road for Illegal Immigrants’.

It is co-hosted by groups working on a range of issues related to G4S such as prison divestment and immigrant rights including Dream Defenders, Enlace, Hands Up United, and Palestinian Youth Movement. Campaign to End the Occupation said: ‘During a time of reinvigorated energy around organising against various oppressive systems such as mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex, we hope this website will be used by activists to strengthen their G4S campaigns.

‘While Palestinian human rights groups welcomed the announcement last month that G4S will be selling its Israeli subsidiary after years of BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns against the company globally, G4S will continue to be a BDS target until the sale is finalised.

‘As Sahar Francis, Director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, commented: “This latest news from G4S is welcome but it has no immediate effect on those facing serious human rights violations inside Israel’s prisons today”.’

• Israeli forces detained 11 Palestinians from across the West Bank during predawn raids carried out early last Friday. The Israeli army said that six Palestinians were detained from the Jenin area, four from Nablus, and one from Hebron, for suspected involvement with the Hamas movement or ‘illegal activity’.

Local residents identified the detainees from Nablus as Akram Ahmad Hasan Dawabsha, Mahmoud Abed al-Fattah, Muhammad Salawdeh, and Tareq al-Kawni. Local residents in Beit Qad village in Jenin said that military forces during the predawn raid confiscated electric appliances from a home belonging to Hussein Ali Mallah. The Israeli military regularly carries out raids across the occupied West Bank.

Around 7,000 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli prisons, many of whom are held under arbitrary detention in violation of international law, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer. Israeli raids on Ramallah, located under full Palestinian jurisdiction, last Thursday caused a number shops and offices to catch fire after soldiers attempted to open a safe using explosives inside of a money exchange office, and clashes later broke out with Palestinian locals.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this month slammed the Israeli military for continuing incursions into areas of the occupied West Bank under Palestinian jurisdiction, on the grounds that the move is in direct contradiction to the Oslo agreements.