Over the course of two days of raids this month, Israeli prison personnel injured over 100 Palestinian prisoners, with tens more suffering breathing difficulties and being referred to hospitals. The escalation in force against prisoners is concerning.
On 20 January 2019, Israeli police raided Section 17 of Ofer Prison, where Palestinian prisoners are being held, with dogs, batons, firearms, tear-gas and sound canisters. On 21 January 2019, Israeli police raided the other sections of Ofer, including the children’s section of the prison.
On 22 January 2019, Palestinian prisoners announced an open-ended hunger strike in protest of the repeated, violent raids by Israeli police and against the systematic denial of their basic rights as prisoners according to international humanitarian and human rights law.
A precursor to the raids, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Public Security, has presided over a committee tasked with setting up regulations that restrict prisoners’ enjoyment of certain rights and benefits. Establishment on 13 June 2018 and comprised of Knesset members, Shin Bet, and the prison service, the committee recommended the following measures:
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights is concerned by the implications of these recommendations in terms of prisoner rights, and the continued undermining of rights—from restrictions on family visits and lawyers, to access to adequate medical care. Al Mezan stresses that the violent raids constitute a breach of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners of 1955 concerning the humane treatment of prisoners and could amount, in all or in part, to unlawful use of force in a law enforcement setting under international human rights law.
The life and well-being of prisoners held in Israeli prisons are the responsibility of the authorities holding them. With around 6,500 Palestinians currently in Israeli prisons, the international community must implement prompt and effective measures to ensure that the Israeli authorities comply with their obligations under international law.