Amnesty International Says Removal of Palestinians from Solitary Confinement A Positive Step, But Israel Should Do More To Protect Prisoners' Rights

Press Release
May 16, 2012

Amnesty International Says Removal of Palestinians from Solitary Confinement A Positive Step, But Israel Should Do More To Protect Prisoners' Rights

Two Thousand Prisoners End Hunger Strike After Decision

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150

(New York) -- Amnesty International welcomed a deal to end long-term solitary confinement for 19 prisoners in Israel as a step in the right direction toward respect for human rights. But the organization said Israel needs to do more to respect prisoners' rights.

Under the Egyptian-brokered deal, Israel agreed to end the solitary confinement of the 19 prisoners and lift a ban on family visits for prisoners from the Gaza Strip, among other things. Two thousand Palestinians held in Israeli prisons suspended a month-long hunger strike in response to the deal.

"We hope that these commitments signal a new approach by the Israeli authorities founded on respect for prisoners' human rights," said Ann Harrison, deputy director, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program. "However, two thousand prisoners and detainees should not have had to put their health on the line in order to ensure respect for their human rights which the Israeli authorities have been violating for years."

Amnesty International has repeatedly called for a resumption of family visits for prisoners from Gaza, which were completely suspended in June 2007.

Amnesty International and local human rights organizations have documented repeated violations by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) against hunger-striking detainees since administrative detainee Khader Adnan began a hunger strike in December 2011.

These include punishing detainees on hunger strike by placing them in solitary confinement and imposing punitive fines; denying urgent medical care; preventing access to independent doctors and lawyers; banning family visits; physical assaults; and forcibly administering treatment, including injections, against the detainees' will.

"These repeated violations by the IPSagainst hunger-striking prisoners require a full, independent and impartial investigation, and those responsible must be held accountable,"Harrison said. "Such prolonged solitary confinement – based on information withheld from the prisoners and their lawyers – is a violation of their rights to due process and constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."

Under the agreement, these prisoners are expected to be moved to cells where they will have contact with other inmates by the end of this week.

Amnesty International is also concerned that in recent weeks Israeli forces and police are reported to have used excessive force against non-violent protesters demonstrating in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike in both the West Bank and Israel.

Harrison said that Israel also must immediately address its practice of administrative detention. As of April 2012, some 308 Palestinians were held as administrative detainees according to IPS statistics. Some are held as prisoners of conscience, held solely for their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association or assembly.

Administrative detention is a procedure under which detainees are held under military orders without charge or trial for periods of up to six months which can be renewed indefinitely.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.