January 4, 2006
Torture in Israeli Prisons
"No person under any form of detention or
imprisonment shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment.
No circumstance whatever may
be invoked as a justification for torture or other cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment or punishment."
The UN Convention against Torture
and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted
and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General
Assembly resolution 39/46 of 10 Decem! ber 1984, goes on to define
torture explicitly in its first article:
"For the purposes of this Convention, the
term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether
physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such
purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a
confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed
or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or
a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind,
when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or
with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person
acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering
arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."
Physical and psychological torture against
Palestinian and Arab prisoners has been a distinguishing factor of
Israeli occupation since 1967. Torture has taken different shapes
throughout the period of occupation, thus, the Israeli security
services have succeeded in achieving great experience in developing new
methods of torture, finding loopholes and deceiving the world. Israel
has always denied its involvement in using torture as a method of
interrogation, despite all tangible evidence, in particular the death
of tens of detainees in interrogation rooms and the deformation of
others. Israel has used conventional methods of torture. But recently
it has been using psychologically, mental and physical painful means of
torture that leave fewer physical evidence, such as forcing prisoners
to sit on a tiny chair with hands and feet tied, standing up in a
closet, depr! iving detainees from sleep and using violent shaking, etc.
Each State Party shall take effective
legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts
of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever,
whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political
instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a
justification of torture.
An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
Article 2, UN Convention Against Torture.
Article 4 Convention against Torture Each State Party shall ensure that
all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall
apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which
consitutes complicity or participation in torture. Each State Party
shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which
take into account their grave nature.
On the other hand, opposing torture has not
stopped. Palestinian, International and Israeli institutions and
individuals have opposed torture in the past years through different
means, mainly the Israeli jurisdiction that has previously allowed moderate physical pressure, which opened the way for torturing at least thirty thousand Palestinian detainees since 1987.
These practices led to embarrassing the
so-called Israeli democracy and forced the Israeli High Court of
Justice to enact a law that prohibits the use of certain! types of
torture, which are the types described in the petitions made before the
Court. The Israeli High Court of Justice's decision is in response to
seven petitions produced before the Israeli High Court by Israeli human
rights institutions during 1994-99 regarding the methods of torture
used by the Israeli intelligence services against Palestinian
prisoners. The Court delayed hearing and ruling on the petitions, while
at the same time it required the Israeli government to enact a law that
organizes the work of the intelligence services so as to avoid a court
ruling against them. The Israeli government did not enact such a law,
and on 6 September 1996 the High Court made its ruling after being
criticized by local and international human rights activists.
The policies of Palestinian and Israeli
institutions in the past years has focused on producing as many
petitions ! as possible before the Israeli High Court of Justice
against torture, with these petitions pressuring the Court to make its
The Court's decision dealt only with part of
the Israeli practices, which were never called torture as described in
international laws and conventions signed by Israel; instead they were
called "physical means".
The Israeli intelligence services relied on
the Landau Ministerial Committee's license of 1987 which gave them the
power to use moderate physical pressure--as it was called by the
Committee--and psychological pressure in interrogation before this
decision was taken. The Committee did not explain the meaning of the
so-called moderate physical pressure in its published report and the
cases in which it is allowed to be used. Instead, it kept the details
of its report confidential, and it was never published. The Ministerial
Committee extended the time period of the license every three months;
henceforth, the intelligence officials used the license to apply all
types of torture methods against Palestinian detainees whom they
considered as time bombs.
All prisoners have experienced at least one
method of torture. According to the Israeli human rights organization
B'Tselem, statistics show that more than 85% of Palestinian detainees
are subjected to torture.
The methods of torture described before the Hi
From the first moment of arrest the
physical torture begins with the placement of handcuffs and the
covering of the head with a bag effecting the breathing of the
prisoner. This is often accompanied by beatings and cursing by the
interrogators. In more then 90% of torture methods utilize "shabh". The
prisoner legs are tied to a small stool and his hands are tied behind
his back with a bag covering his head sometimes for more then 48 hours
continuously in which he is given only 5 minute breaks between each
sitting. During interrogation periods the prisoner is usually not
allowed to sit in a normal sitting position but is forced to crouch
Also the prisoner is tied to a loop in the wall while standing or
he is seated on a small stool and his hands are tied behind his back to
a table which is higher! thereby forcing his shoulders and arms to stay
in a raised position. These types of tying methods became so familiar
within the interrogation process they no longer are perceived as
illegal or insulting to the individuals' rights and their dignity. One
of the most difficult forms of physical torture is the "shaking". The
interrogator takes hold of the prisoner by the collar and violently
shakes him for over a minute. This torture method is very dangerous.
You certainly remember the death of the Palestinian prisoner Abd al
Summad Herisat in the April 1995 as a result of shaking. After that the
forensic pathologist, Dr. Robert Kirschner, stated that the use of
shaking is very dangerous and causes serious, and irreversible brain
damage. There is much more which can be said about the dangers of
physical torture but this is not the time for it.
This method of torture entails the interrogator threatened by and
therefore utilizes the security of the state to justify the use of
torture against Palestinians. It is known that from a legal stand point
there is no way to charge a person with a crime without evidence or by
his own confession to the crime. What would make a person confess to a
crime when he knows that there is no evidence against him? To torture a
person in order to get him to confess to a crime he did not commit or
say something he does not wish to say shows that the person is not
dealt with as a human being but rather as a means to arrive to an
desired end. The question is how can a country that claims it is
democratic and that it respects individuals as human beings legitimize
Preventing the detainees from sleeping for a
period of 5-10 continuous days is another method of torture. In
addition to the table squat, beating, cursing and depriving prisoners
from the natural right of using toilets and changing their underwear in
order to insult and degrade them.
Serving bad and little food rations and
serving the last meal at four o'clock in the afternoon in order to make
prisoners starve. Preventing prisoners from meeting lawyers for thirty
days, using security as an excuse for such actions. Solitary
confinement in cold, rotting and narrow cells where prisoners spend
45-70 days in such conditions and sometimes 90 days, as in the case of
the detainees Muhammad Salih and Ata Jafal.
The High Court ruling on 6 September 1999
dealt with the torture methods of violent shaking, tying against small
chairs, handcuffing and preventing sleeping. The Court ruled that using
violent shaking and painful tying to small chairs are prohibited.
It also ruled that preventing sleeping and handcuffing were prohibited.
Using a sack to cover the head and playing loud music during tying
prisoners to little chairs was also prohibited.
The Court ruled that these methods are
prohibited when used as a means during interrogation to put pressure on
the detainees. Whereas, if they are used as necessary means of
interrogation, then they are allowed. For instance, an interrogator can
cuff the detainee to guarantee his (the interrogator's) safety during
the interrogation for long hours, which can be 20 hours. This is
exactly what the interrogators do now after the Court ruling: they tie
a prisoner to a chair for long periods of time to replace the
previous method of tying a prisoner to a tiny chair and placing a
sack on top of his head.
The exceptional cases as claimed by the prosecution under "the necessary protection" where intelligence officers have the right to use the methods of torture whenever necessary, are known as the time bomb. The Court ruled that this protection
given in compliance with the Israeli criminal law does not give the
legal power to the intelligence officers to use physical force against
detainees. The Court did not rule that the use of power in these cases
is completely prohibited, as is the case in international conventions.
On the contrary, it left it open for the Israeli Knesset (parliament)
to enact laws that give the intelligence officers the authority to use
such power. The judges declared in Article 39 of the ruling stated that
at this stage they do not take a decision and possibly there is a view
that says that the security problems Israel faces are too many,
therefore, power should be given to interrogators to use physical
methods during interrogation.
The Court has not ruled that if one
intelligence officer uses torture he will be taken to court or not,
because it left the use of "necessary protection" open to interpretation.
Henceforth, we realize that the Court
ruling, though it was a first step towards prohibiting the use of
torture, does not eliminate the legalization of the use of torture from
Israeli law, especially as it allows the Knesset to enact a proper law
if it deems necessary in the interrogation rooms. Many Knesset members,
who opposed torture in the past, support the use of torture by
intelligence officers since, in their opinion, it is necessary to
protect the state security.
The Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak issued
a direct order of forming a committee, known as the Sokhar-Mizuz
committee, to establish a draft law that gives the intelligence
officers the authority to use torture. The majority of the members of
the committee supported giving the intelligence officers the authority
to use pressure in exceptional cases in order to force confessions from
detainees during interrogation so as to save lives. The minority of the
members of the committee, including Yossi Beilen, the Israeli Minister
of Justice, opposed the draft law "that gives the authority to use physical means during interrogation by the intelligence officers".
Despite all the peace talks and agreements,
the arrest campaigns, pursuing Palestinians, interrogating them and
torturing them has not stop in 1999.
The Association faced m! any obstacles in
its follow up of the detainees' cases during custody and interrogation
because it was prevented from meeting them for security reasons.
The Association has also noticed that the security services do not
follow the law or the right of the clients to see their lawyers by
using excuses such as the detainee is in the interrogation room or has
been taken to another prison. These obstacles forced the Association to
take its cases to the High Court many times. ADDAMEER
has also identified that the Israeli security services use various
kinds of torture against almost all prisoners, most noticeably, tying
against a chair, violent shaking, preventing sleeping and beating.
To confirm our argument, these are some of the cases that ADDAMEER followed up in 1999:
The interrogation services began to change some of their methods of torture but keeping torturing
anyway in the aftermath of the High Court ruling in September 1999
regarding prohibiting the use of some torture methods. These included
replacing Jewish torturers with Arab torturers and sending detainees to
the collaborators rooms known as "the shameful rooms' for a period of
more than one month in some cases. During this period the detainees
would be prevented from s! eeing their lawyers and the interrogation
would be carried out in a systematic way agreed upon by the
intelligence services' officers. Torture would be used in different
ways such as beating, degradation, threatening, starving and cheating.
The detainees who were victims of "the shameful rooms" emphasized that
the conditions in these rooms are so harsh since torture and
threatening and fear surround them.
The Israeli intelligence services still use
torture and attempt to recruit more collaborators. It is evident that
there is an increase in the campaigns of arresting young people who are
still under eighteen years of age in order to recruit them as
collaborators for the Israeli intelligence services.
ADDAMEER witnessed the
extent of compliance of the Israeli intelligence services with the
Court ruling. It identified a violation of t! he ruling since some
methods of torture are still being used against the detainees such as
tying them against a tiny chair, beating them and depriving them from
sleeping. Detainees are still suffering from malnutrition and solitary
confinement for long periods of time and preventing them from changing
ADDAMEER followed up 32
cases in interrogation since the issuance of the Court ruling on
September 6 1999 until the end of 1999, some of the cases include:
"PALESTINIAN CHILDREN POLITICAL PRISONERS
Early Adulthood, Stolen Childhood
Since the beginning of this Intifada in
September 2000, over 2500 children have been arrested. Currently there
are at least 340 Palestinian children being held in Israeli Prisons.
According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
adopted on 20 November 1989 and entered into force on 2 September1990
(to which Israel is a signatory), and to relevant Israeli law, a child
is defined as every human be! ing under the age of 18 years. This is
reiterated in the UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty,
adopted by General Assembly Resolution 45/113 of 14 December 1990.
However, Palestinian children from the age of 16 years are considered
adults under Israeli military regulations governing the Occupied
As is the case with adult prisoners, child
detainees are transferred to prisons located within Israel. The primary
prisons in which Palestinian child male detainees are held are Hasharon
(Telmond), near Netanya, and Megiddo, near Haifa. Girl child prisoners
are transferred to Neve Tertza Prison (Ramleh). Interrogation of child
detainees takes place at Beit El and Huwarra Interrogation Centers, and
occasionally other interrogation centers, and Palestinian child
administrative detainees are held with ! adult administrative detainees
at both Ofer and Negev Military Prison Camps. Palestinian children are
primarily arrested at Israeli military checkpoints, from their homes,
or from the street.
Arrests from Military Checkpoints
children arrested from Israeli military checkpoints are often made to
wait for hours at the checkpoint, with their hands cuffed, before they
are transferred to detention and interrogation centers. More often than
not, Palestinian child detainees are subject to beatings, curses and
threats during the transfer. In most cases, their families are not
informed of their arrest, with child prisoners additionally being
transferred from one prison to another without informing the family. As
a result, it often takes some time before a child detainee is located
and the family informed of his/her location.
Arrests from Home
of Palestinian children often happen in the middle of the night from
the childĺs home, with tens of soldiers surrounding the house and then
raiding it. Soldiers usually do not have a warrant for arrest or
searches. The entire house is searched, often ransacked and personal
property destroyed, occupants humiliated and harassed.
Detention Centers and Prisons
Megiddo Military Prison
is a military prison camp located north of the West Bank and
administered by the Israeli Ministry of Defence. Palestinian male child
prisoners between the ages of 16-18 are held at the military prison
camp together with Palestinian adult prisoners.
Over 1,000 Palestinian detainees are held at
Megiddo, including approximately 80 child prisoners aged between 16-18.
Prisoners are held in military tents and divided amongst 5 different
sections of the prison, with each section accommodating 8 tents.
Palestinian child prisoners at Megiddo do not receive any special
education as they are considered adults under Israeli military
regulations and are therefore unable to continue their studies whilst
in detention. Child prisoners are subject to medical negligence from
the prison administration.
Hasharon (Telmond) Prison
(Telmond) Prison is a central prison located between Tel Aviv and
Netanya, administered by the Israeli Prisons Authority. The prison
dates to the British Mandate period and is in disrepair. From the
beginning of the 1990ĺs, Palestinian male child prisoners below t! he
age of 16 have been held in various sections of the prison.
Sections 7 and 8 of Hasharon Prison are the
primary areas in which Palestinian child prisoners are held. Section 7
holds 38 child prisoners and Section 8 holds 50 child prisoners. The
cells in each of the sections consist of a total of 21 beds and 1
toilet. Palestinian child prisoners who hold Israeli blue identity
cards (Jerusalemites or citizens of Israel) are held in the Ofek
section of the prison, which is a rehabilitation section intended for
Israeli juvenile criminal prisoners. The prison includes an outside
yard that is enclosed by high walls and is approximately15m by 15m. All
prisoners use the yard during their outdoor breaks.
Prior to the beginning of the current
Intifada, Palestinian child prisoners were held in section 9 of the
prison, separated from criminal prisoners and rece! iving special
education. However, at the beginning of the current Intifada, as a
result of the dramatic increase of child arrests, Palestinian child
prisoners from the West Bank and Gaza Strip began to be placed in
criminal sections of Ofek prison and subject to increased harassment.
Neve Tertza (Ramleh) Prison
prison is administered by the Israeli Prisons Authority and holds
female prisoners.? In 2002, 11 girl child prisoners were being held in
Israeli prisons, the youngest being Zeinab Al Shouli and 'Aisha
'Obeyat, who both turned 15 whilst in prison.
Ofer and Negev (Ketziot) Military Prison Camps
male child prisoners serving administrative detention orders are held
together with adult Palestinian male prisoners at both Ofer and Negev
Military Prison Camps. The Israel Ministry of Defence administer! s
both military prison camps.
Conditions of detention in which Palestinian child prisoners are held
Palestinian child prisoners are held in
inhumane conditions of detention, made to live in overcrowded and
filthy cells. Often, children are placed in small solitary confinement
cells, measuring 1.5 square meters, that are extremely humid and have
no windows for natural light, or with bright artificial light that is
continuously kept on. This forces prisoners to remain awake at all
times, depriving the prisoner of sleep for days in some cases.
Prisoners do not receive sufficient food to meet the daily nutrition
requirements for children, are prevented from going to the toilet at
their will, and are not allowed a change of clothing.
The UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty offers clear standards for the conditions of detention that children may be held in within Section D of the rules:
D. Physical environment and accommodation
31. Juveniles deprived of their liberty have
the right to facilities and services that meet all the requirements of
health and human dignity.
32. The design of detention facilities for
juveniles and the physical environment should be in keeping with the
rehabilitative aim of residential treatment, with due regard to the
need of the juvenile for privacy, sensory stimuli, opportunities for
association with peers and participation in sports, physical exercise
and lei! sure-time activities. The design and structure of juvenile
detention facilities should be such as to minimize the risk of fire and
to ensure safe evacuation from the premises. There should be an
effective alarm system in case of fire, as well as formal and drilled
procedures to ensure the safety of the juveniles. Detention facilities
should not be located in areas where there are known health or other
hazards or risks.
33. Sleeping accommodation should normally
consist of small group dormitories or individual bedrooms, while
bearing in mind local standards. During sleeping hours there should be
regular, unobtrusive supervision of all sleeping areas, including
individual rooms and group dormitories, in order to ensure the
protection of each juvenile. Every juvenile should, in accordance with
local or nation! al standards, be provided with separate and sufficient
bedding, which should be clean when issued, kept in good order and
changed often enough to ensure cleanliness.
34. Sanitary installations should be so
located and of a sufficient standard to enable every juvenile to
comply, as required, with their physical needs in privacy and in a
clean and decent manner.
35. The possession of personal effects is a
basic element of the right to privacy and essential to the
psychological well being of the juvenile. The right of every juvenile
to possess personal effects and to have adequate storage facilities for
them should be fully recognized and respected. Personal effects that
the juvenile does not choose to retain or that are confiscated should
be placed in safe custody! . An inventory thereof should be signed by
the juvenile. Steps should be taken to keep them in good condition. All
such articles and money should be returned to the juvenile on release,
except in so far as he or she has been authorized to spend money or
send such property out of the facility. If a juvenile receives or is
found in possession of any medicine, the medical officer should decide
what use should be made of it.
36. To the extent possible juveniles should
have the right to use their own clothing. Detention facilities should
ensure that each juvenile has personal clothing suitable for the
climate and adequate to ensure good health, and which should in no
manner be degrading or humiliating. Juveniles removed from or leaving a
facility for any purpose should be allowed to wear their own clothing!
37. Every detention facility shall ensure
that every juvenile receives food that is suitably prepared and
presented at normal meal times and of a quality and quantity to satisfy
the standards of dietetics, hygiene and health and, as far as possible,
religious and cultural requirements. Clean drinking water should be
available to every juvenile at any time.
The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, applicable to all imprisoned individuals, also specifies the standards required for conditions of detention:
9. (1) Where sleeping accommodation is in
individual cells or rooms, each prisoner shall occupy by night a cell
or room by himself. If for special reasons, such as temporary
overcrowding, it becomes necessary for the ce! ntral prison
administration to make an exception to this rule, it is not desirable
to have two prisoners in a cell or room.
(2) Where dormitories are used, they shall
be occupied by prisoners carefully selected as being suitable to
associate with one another in those conditions. There shall be regular
supervision by night, in keeping with the nature of the institution.
10. All accommodation provided for the use
of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet
all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic
conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor
space, lighting, heating and ventilation
Palestinian child detainees are subject to
physical and psychological torture during their interrogation in order
to force them to confess to activities they may or may not have done.
The majority of confessions and sentences are related to throwing
stones. Under extreme physical and psychological pressure, children
often confess to such activities to end the circumstances they find
themselves, often confessing to things they didn't do.
During interrogation, children are isolated
from their families and lawyers are often not informed of the place of
their detention. The child is usually not allowed to meet with a lawyer
during the first period of interrogation, confining the child's world
to the interrogation room and the interrogator, adding to the
psychological! stress the child already finds himself/herself in.
Child detainees are interrogated by either
the Israeli police of by officers of the Israeli General Security
Services (GSS). The initial interrogation period lasts for 4 days, with
the possibility of renewal for another 4 days by the interrogation
team. After this 8-day period, the child detainee must be brought
before a military judge.
Like all Palestinian prisoners, Palestinian
child prisoners are subject to medical negligence from the prison
administration. Simple medical treatment, such as painkillers, is often
refused the prisoners if the doctor is not available in the prison at
the time. Prisoners must wait until the next morning, ! when the doctor
or nurse is in the prison, before they are administered painkillers or
examined. Prisoners are not given regular medical checkups, and it can
take up to 6 months before a prisoner is seen by a specialist, if the
medical conditions warrant it. For example, child prisoners Nasser
Zeid, Wadeeĺ Hassanain, and Abdullah Atta have needed urgent eye
examinations and glasses for at least 4 months.
Israeli authorities are in clear violation
of international law in the medical negligence practiced against
Palestinian child prisoners. The UN Minimum Standard Rules for the
Treatment of Prisoners, under the section relating medical services,
22. (1) At every institution there shall be
available the services of at least one qualified medical officer who
should have some knowledge of psychiatry. The medical services sho! uld
be organized in close relationship to the general health administration
of the community or nation. They shall include a psychiatric service
for the diagnosis and, in proper cases, the treatment of states of
(2) Sick prisoners who require specialist
treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil
hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution,
their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be
proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there
shall be a staff of suitable trained officers.
(3) The services of a qualified dental officer shall be available to every prisoner.
Food provided to
Palestinian child prisoners is prepared by Israeli criminal prisoners
and is poor in both quality and quantity. The food is often
undercooked, lacking in flavor, and does not meet the daily nutritional
requirements for children. Article 20 (1) of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners
states that "every prisoner shall be provided by the administration at
the usual hours with food of nutritional value adequate for health and
strength, of wholesome quality and well prepared and served." This is
clearly not the case for Palestinian child prisoners held within
Right to Education
Despite the fact that the majority of
Palestinian child prisoners are arrested whilst they are still school
stu! dents, the Israeli authorities clearly neglect the child's right
to education whilst in detention. The prison administration does not
provide the conditions or materials required to continue their
education, despite the fact that international law clearly states that
children must be afforded the right to education in all circumstances.
In particular, the Israeli authorities neglect of child prisoners right
to education is a clear violation of the educational requirements of
prisoners stipulated in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners:
77. (1) "Provision shall be made for the
further education of all prisoners capable of profiting thereby,
including religious instruction in the countries where this is
possible. The education of illiterates and young prisoners shall be
compulsory and special attenti! on shall be paid to it by the
(2) " So far as practicable, the education
of prisoners shall be integrated with the educational system of the
country so that after their release they may continue their education
Summary of violations
Attacks by Israeli criminal prisoners, including threats and stabbings.
Subject to sexual, physical and verbal
harassment. Sexual harassment has been practiced against a number of
child prisoners and threats of beatings if the child reports the
incident to the administration. One child prisoner who complained to
the administration about sexual harassment was attacked by Israeli
criminal prisoners with knives and injured in his leg.
Theft of personal belongings, including phone cards, shoes and foodstuff that is purchased from the prison canteen.
Absence of newspapers and recreational facilities.
Prevention of family visits, and the subsequent psychological impact on child prisoners.
Held in sections with criminal prisoners.
Deprived of continuation of education whilst in detention.
The absence of the psychological care and counselors within the prison.
Tortured during the interrogation period.
Feeling alone and isolated ! from the outside world.
Attempts to coerce children to work as collaborators with Israeli security agencies.
Absence of entertainment and cultural items.
Additional issues regarding child prisoners
is prohibited to use forms of torture such as shackling as a means of
punishment against child prisoners. However, this is common practice in
Israeli prisons with child prisoners. Child prisoners held for security
reasons should be detained in separate sections and apart from criminal
prisoners. In violation of this principle, Palestinian child prisoners
detained for security reasons are held with Israeli criminal prisoners."
"PALESTINIAN WOMEN POLITICAL PRISONERS
As a result of their visible activity in the
current Intifada, Palestinian women have! not escaped the mass arrest
campaigns. Palestinian women in detention are subjected to mistreatment
on a daily basis and are often held in cells and sections with Israeli
criminal prisoners. Regular body searches are performed with brutality
by prison guards; sexual harassment occurs frequently; the right to
elect a representative for their collective demands is not recognized
as in other prisons; solitary confinement is often used as a form of
punishment; detainees are prohibited from going outside regularly or of
using the canteen; cell searches and confiscation of personal
belongings is a common practice; and attacks on women by beating or
firing tear gas into cells occur regularly.
At the end of 2004, there were over 120
Palestinian women being held by Israeli authorities. The number has
steadily increased over the years of the Intifada making this the
largest! number of female detainees held by Israel in two-decades.
Female prisoners are placed in 2 central prisons, Neve Tresta and
17 of these women are mothers,
two women, Mervat Taha and Manal Ghanem, gave birth while in detention
and Manal continues to live with her child, Nour, inside the prison.
Mervat was recently released with her son, Wa'el, now 2 years old has
lived his entire life inside the prison. There are currently eight
girls (under age 18) inside Israeli jails in addition to a number of
women who have turned 18 while they were imprisoned. Israel detains
children as young as 12 years old, in blatant contravention of the
internationally accepted designation of any individual under the age of
18 as a child. Israeli military regulations stipulate that a child is
anyone under the age of 16, whilst Israeli law stipulates ! this age to
be under 18.
Many Palestinian women prisoners are
transferred to Neve Tertza Prison, one of six sections of Ramleh Prison
after their interrogation process. Here Palestinian female detainees remain detained within the same section as Israeli criminal female prisoners
accused of crimes such as murder, theft, drug use, and prostitution.
Mixing Palestinian prisoners with Israeli criminal prisoners has
created a great deal of tension within the prison, particularly as
political prisoners should be separated from other categories of
The prison administration continues to humiliate Palestinian female prisoners
by forcing them to strip in front of prison guards while their hands
are cuffed, and then to dress before these same guards. The
administration conducts regular searches of prison cells, conf!
iscating personal property and papers.
The prison administration has diligently worked at breaking the unity of the female detainees
by isolating them from the outside world and preventing family visits.
Correspondence to and from the prison is also prohibited, and
newspapers are allowed in the prison but are delayed by a few days.
Visits amongst other prisoners are prevented and daily breaks have been
reduced to half an hour. Palestinian women prisoners at Neve Tertza
Prison reported that their conditions of detention were extremely
difficult, with no glass protecting windows in the cells and insects
and vermin found throughout the prison. Because of the prevention of
family visits, prisoners do not have adequate winter clothing or extra
food to supplement the small food portions they receive in prison.
Some Palestinian female prisoner! s have been arrested as a means of placing pressure on their husbands.
Asma' Abu el-Hayja, for example, who is 40 years old and is suffering
from brain cancer, is being held in an administrative detention in
order to pressure her husband who is also under detention. Mrs. Ablaa'
Saadat was arrested on 21 January 2003 as she travelled as a
Palestinian representative to the World Social Forum in Brazil. Saadat
is the wife of the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). She was give four months administrative
detention following her arrest. She was told by an interrogator that
her arrest was merely a demonstration that 'they' can do whatever they
want. She was also told that if her husband had 'blood on his hands'
they would kill her children."