UNITED Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has demanded the protection of Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails and detention facilities amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The UN chief has also asked his Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, to remain in contact with Israeli officials to ensure that due attention is paid.
In a letter addressed to the Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee Saeb Erekat on Friday, Guterres pointed to the reduction of prison overcrowding and restrictions on family visits in order to improve public health conditions.
He also stressed the need for coronavirus tests to identify the infected prisoners to quarantine.
The Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, has already warned about the dire consequences of keeping Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, denouncing the Tel Aviv regime’s utter disregard for local and international calls to release them amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Palestinian campaigners have called on Israel to provide adequate health care services to the Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli jails amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On April 7th, Shaker Amara, a Hamas leader, said the Israeli regime sought to increase the sufferings of the Palestinian nation through more acts of aggression, arbitrary arrests and fearmongering in the time of coronavirus.
He added, ‘Palestinian prisoners being held inside Israeli jails live in a tragic situation and are gripped by the fear of coronavirus spread inside prisons. The Israel Prison Service (IPS) ignores previous warnings and relevant instructions to prevent the new coronavirus spread, whilst the prisoners need exceptional measures to confront the virus.’
Iran’s Judiciary chief says the Israeli regime must immediately release all Palestinian prisoners amid the coronavirus outbreak.
A day earlier, the secretary general of the Arab League had appealed to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners amid rising cases of infection in the occupied territories.
Ahmed Abul Gheit, in a letter addressed to Director General of ICRC Robert Mardini, said Palestinians are subject to dangerous conditions in Israeli jails, pointing to the absence of specialists and medical devices to assist patients besides the lack of adequate ventilation and severe shortage of cleaning materials and other essential goods.
- Seán Crowe, spokesperson for Ireland’s Sinn Féin party on Foreign Affairs, EU, Brexit and Defence, has sent solidarity greetings to the thousands of Palestinian prisoners detained in Israeli jails.
He said there is now a real concern of an outbreak of Covid-19 among the Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons, calling for their immediate release especially those highly vulnerable to the disease.
The following is the full message of Dublin South West TD:
‘I want to send the solidarity greetings of myself and the Sinn Féin party to all those Palestinians, imprisoned in Israeli jails for resisting the occupation of their homeland.
‘We also want to extend that solidarity to the thousands of families and loved ones of those prisoners; your sons, daughters, and children are not forgotten and are in our thoughts.
‘Since the beginning of March this year, the Israeli military have arrested over 350 Palestinians and over 1,300 since the start of 2020.
‘This tactic of widespread arrest and arbitrary detention of Palestinians, including children, is used as a tool to suppress the desire for freedom and oppress the resistance to the occupation by the people of Palestine.
‘For decades, Israel has been tightening its repression and trying without success to assert its control over Palestinian prisoners.
‘There are approximately 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, including 180 children, 41 female prisoners, 6 elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council members, and 430 administrative detainees held in jails throughout Israel.
‘Access to health care is used to try and break the morale of prisoners. Approximately 700 of these prisoners have various illnesses with more than 200 suffering chronic diseases that need comprehensive medical care.
‘We share the concerns of Palestinian leaders and prisoners’ representatives who have expressed their mounting concern and fear over the spread of Covid-19 inside these prisons which are overcrowded, lack adequate ventilation, not maintained to basic hygiene standards, poor nutrition and access to exercise, and which do not offer prompt and quick access to medical care.
‘Any outbreak of Covid-19 would be catastrophic to the prison population and the risk is only heightened by the ongoing daily arrests and detention of new additional Palestinian prisoners.
‘Israel needs to stop its occupation, its mass detention of Palestinians, and abide by international and human rights law. We know from our own struggle that inhumane treatment of prisoners and a vindictive prison policy will not break the Palestinian desire for independence, freedom, and self-determination.
‘We are thinking of you and your families today.
‘Stay strong, stay united and in the words of the Irish Republican Prisoner Hunger striker Bobby Sands: “They have nothing in their entire arsenal to break the spirit of one single political prisoner-of-war who refuses to be broken.”’
- Hanan Ashrawi, Member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)’s Executive Committee, said on the occasion of the Palestinian Prisoner Day that the ‘Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli detention centres and prisons are hostages to Israel’s gratuitous cruelty and victims of its regime of oppression and subjugation.’
She said 5,000 Palestinians are currently imprisoned by Israel in deplorable conditions, including 432 so-called administrative detainees imprisoned without charge or trial, and are denied their basic rights to due process and justice.
Ashrawi renewed the call on behalf of the Palestinian leadership for the release of all Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, especially the 700 Palestinian prisoners suffering from chronic illnesses and other underlying conditions that make them especially vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said: ‘As the Palestinian people confront the challenges of colonial occupation and this vicious virus, Israel has persisted in its illegal policies against Palestinian prisoners.
‘It has denied them access to family and lawyer visits and refused to take any preventive measures inside prisons, including testing for Covid-19, even after one prisoner tested positive upon release and several occupation officers in prisons have tested positive.
‘Israel has also persisted in its illegal policy of arbitrary mass detention of Palestinians. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Israeli occupation forces have detained 357 Palestinians across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Among those detained are 48 children,’ Ashrawi added.
‘As an occupying power, Israel has undeniable and binding obligations under international law. It is directly responsible for the life and health of all prisoners and must face consequences for its grave violations of international law.’
The PLO official called on ‘all human rights defenders and relevant international organisations to support our call for the release of Palestinian prisoners and their protection from this deadly virus’.