There are hundreds of administrative detainees in Israeli prisons and detention centres
including many women and children under the age of 18.
There are currently around 10, 400 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and since 1967, over 650,000 Palestinian people have been imprisoned. Imprisonment of Palestinians is an essential element in Israel’s occupation and control of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. A recent feature has been the imprisonment of Government Ministers, other elected members of Government and senior officials. There is more information in a Palestine Solidarity Campaign factsheet on prisoners, available here (PDF file 1.5 Mb).
Women Political Prisoners
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 recognised 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 since 2000 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 Hasharon-Telmond.
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 prisoners.
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, confiscating 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 prisoners 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 given 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.
Child Political Prisoners
Since the beginning of 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 being 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 Palestinian Territories.
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
Palestinian 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 centres. 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
Arrests of Palestinian children often happen in the middle of the night from the child’s 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.
Conditions of detention in which Palestinian children 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 metres, 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.
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 in which 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.
Israeli authorities are in clear violation of international law in the medical negligence practiced against Palestinian child prisoners
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 flavour, 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 Israeli prisons.
Right to education
Despite the fact that the majority of Palestinian child prisoners are arrested whilst they are still school students, 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.
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.
* Medical negligence.
* Inadequate food.
Additional issues regarding child prisoners
It 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.