April 17th is Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. There are an estimated 4,520 Palestinian prisoners in crowded Israeli jails, including men, women and children as young as 14. In the face of well-founded concerns that COVID is spreading in its prisons, a global outcry is rising demanding Israel release Palestinian prisoners, particularly women and children and those held without charge under so-called “administrative detention”. So far, Canada, which claims to be a “friend of the Palestinian people” has not shown any interest. Read more…
In the face of the spread of the COVID 19 virus inside the Israeli prison system, April 17th, known as the Palestinian Prisoners Day, has taken on special urgency for the estimated 4,250 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, jails, and interrogation centres.
For years Palestinian human rights organizations have used this day to shed light on what it alleges are Israel’s repressive policies toward its Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza.
According to the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, these include:
- Inhuman and cruel detention conditions;
- Psychological and physical torture, and solitary confinement;
- Administrative detention;
- Unjust military orders and decisions; and
- Ban on visits from medical professionals
A recent appeal from Addameer, a West-Bank based prisoner rights organization, called on the international community “to join us in an urgent campaign to free all Palestinian prisoners in order to protect them from COVID-19, particularly in light of the increased restrictions on their rights by the Israeli Prison Service.”
The Addameer appeal noted that as of early March 2020, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS):
- halted all family and lawyers’ visits for Palestinian prisoners,
- postponed all trial proceedings in the military courts
- stopped bringing Palestinians undergoing pre-trial detention or interrogation for their detention extensions. (…)
- barred Palestinian prisoner’s legal representatives are barred from direct communication with their clients
Around the world, human rights organizations have taken up the issue of the spread of COVID among prisoners with alarm. “I urge all states to release all those detained without a lawful basis, including those held in violation of human rights obligations,” said Michelle Bachelet, UN Commissioner for Human rights.
(In fact, Israel did announce the release of approximately 400 Israeli prisoners to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but this does not appear to have included any Palestinians.)
In the USA, the Friends of Sabeel North America, a Christian organization has launched a petition urging that the USA bring pressure on Israel to release its Palestinian prisoners.
The US Campaign for Palestinian Human Rights (USCPR) has launched its own campaign toward the same end.
And how concerned is Canada…? Apparently not very
A letter sent to Canada’s Mission in Ramallah three weeks ago asking them to investigate the situation of Palestinian prisoners, has gone unacknowledged and unanswered.
A copy of the letter follows:
Canadian Mission to the Palestinian Authority,
March 31, 2020
When our Come and See group was in Ramallah last fall, we met with representatives of Addameer, the Palestinian prisoner rights organization. We got an excellent, detailed briefing on how accused Palestinians are “processed” by Israeli authorities. Most are held for months without charge under “administrative detainment”. All are under duress, with poor medical attention. Many are tortured. Now it appears that family visits have also been suspended, which makes any outside surveillance almost impossible.
I have just received an urgent appeal from Addameer indicating that some of these prisoners (still not charged) have now become infected with the COVID 19 virus while under interrogation.
I urge you, as representatives of the Canadian government, to investigate the veracity of these allegations and to make representation to the Israeli government to release those not convicted of any crime.
Thank you in advance.
Peter Larson, group leader
Canada – come in please
So far our email asking for urgent action has gone unacknowledged. CTIP recognizes that under the threat of COVID 19, our representatives there have to be focussed on the safety of our own employees and that of Canadians visiting the region. In that context, it isn’t important that our mission answer our letter.
What IS important, however, is whether Canada, which claims to be a “friend of the Palestinian people”, is showing any interest in the dire situation of Palestinian prisoners.
Anyone who thinks so, might want to send a note to our Prime Minister, our Foreign affairs minister , our Canadian Ambassador in Tel Aviv, or to our Chief representative in to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Copies might also be sent to your local MP.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue.
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