3 September 2023 |Reference 55/2023
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights strongly condemns Israel’s increased abuses of Palestinian prisoners in its custody. Last week, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir announced yet another racist measure targeting Palestinian prisoners, reducing family visits from once a month to once every two months. Not only does this measure fail to respect the fundamental rights of the Palestinian prisoners and detainees, but it is bound to aggravate their suffering.
According to Palestinian detainees’ organizations, at the end of 2022, there were around 4,700 Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, including 29 women and 150 children. Among the total number of detainees, 850 were administrative detainees (including seven children and two women), 15 journalists, and five members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territory in Israeli custody are protected persons entitled to protection under international humanitarian law. In particular, the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention lays down rules concerning the treatment of internees and grants them a number of rights, including to receive visits and to send and receive letters and cards. According to Article 116 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, “[e]very internee shall be allowed to receive visitors, especially near relatives, at regular intervals and as frequently as possible.” This right is also recognized in human rights law, including Rule 58 of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) and Principle 19 of the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.
In December 2021, Al Mezan and HaMoked petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to restore family visits to Gaza detainees in Israeli custody, which had been suspended for almost two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the Israeli Prison Service restored family visits for Gaza detainees, 60 of them are still denied this right for political reasons. Moreover, most detainees are denied their right to receive visits from first-degree relatives for “security reasons”. For example, detainee Bassil Imad Ereef has been prevented from seeing his father for almost two decades.
Al Mezan recalls that all High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 have the obligation to ensure Israel's compliance with them, including in preventing and putting an end to its violations. Consequently, the international community should compel Israel to fulfil its obligations under international law, including guaranteeing the right of Palestinian detainees to receive regular family visits.
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