Mrs. Felicia Langer, Honorary President of the European Alliance in Defence of Palestinian Detainees
Mr. Khaled Hamad, General Coordinator of the European Alliance in Defence of Palestinian Detainees
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of PEAD members and staff I greet you and wish success to this gathering, in which a distinguished group of politicians, Parliament members and law specialists participate from Europe, the USA, Latin American countries and Palestine to stress their support to the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people. The meeting is also a chance to reassure the necessity to achieve to a comprehensive political resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; a balanced resolution based on international law and the resolutions taken by international community. Such a resolution is fundamental to realize peace and stability in the region including the state of Palestine with its Capital: the city of Jerusalem. You also meet today to show your solidarity and support to the Palestinian prisoners’ movement that Israel must treat in accordance to international law, and especially the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
You, ladies and gentlemen now well that the West Bank including east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip has been under belligerent Israeli Occupation since 1967. At that time Chaim Hirtzog issued military order No. 3 in his capacity as the chief commander of Israeli military. In article No 35 of that order it is mentioned that military rule that resulted from the occupation has to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, particularly in the protection of civilians, and that Israeli Military Courts must adhere to this Convention. The order further asserted that in case a contradiction occurred between them, Geneva Convention comes superior.
However, Israeli Military higher authority soon backtracked on this position, and announced that the Convention is not applicable to the Palestinian Occupied Territories. This new and fixed position has resulted in serious violations of Palestinian prisoners’ rights inside prisons and detention centers that Israel established within its proper. These centers are outside the occupied territories since 1967, which amounts to violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits such an act. Article 76 of the Convention states that: “protected persons are to be detained inside the occupied territory, and they serve their term within it in case and they were convicted”.
Israel’s position had opened a debate on the legal status of Palestinian prisoners in its jails, especially as Israel denies them the status of legal freedom fighters subject to the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. This position violates article 1/4 of the additional protocol of the Convention. The protocol asserts that the status of prisoners extends to encompass members of organized groups struggling against colonial force or foreign rule or racist systems. It follows that a conflict between a national movement and an occupying power –as the case of Israeli occupation- is considered an international conflict subject to the Geneva Convention, to which the PLO and the state of Palestine are signatories.
As a result of this Israeli position a series of serious violation of Palestinian prisoners’ rights has been the hallmark of Israel’s policies in this respect: the incarceration of Palestinian in military camps under inhuman conditions inside the state of Israel which makes family visits to their prisoner relatives rather close to impossible. Moreover, Palestinian prisoners are subjugated to harsh interrogation measures including torture in a gross violation to the International Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Humanitarian Law. Israeli authorities also violate article 91 of the Geneva Convention that requires the presence of a convenient clinic to provide prisoners with decent health care. Israeli authorities and particularly prisons administration treats deprive our prisoner from this right and the ill-treatment it offers them, which resulted in the death of 210 prisoners among which 50 who passed as a result of medical ignorance since 1967.
Among other gross violations of international law by Israel is solitary imprisonment against Palestinians in Israeli Jails as a means of punishment or as a tool to force them to yield to their interrogators. Palestinian prisoners' families also pay a heavy price in many cases such as demolishing the houses of prisoners, which consists a fixed collective punishment policy for Israel in the OPT. In this context, Israel's Higher Court contributes to this policy by providing legal justifications for house demolishing in a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law and article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions. In addition, Israeli prison authorities continues to expedite Palestinian prisoners out of the OPT in violation to article 49 of the Geneva Conventions that prohibits forced expedite of prisoners individually or in collective manner into the territory of the occupying power.
On another level Israel's Administrative Detention policy exacerbates the suffering of Palestinian prisoners. The procedures implemented in this type of detention allows the incarceration of Palestinians in Israeli detention camps for periods that extend from 3-6 months subject to extension for unlimited time without a trial and without indictment. Administrative detention descends back to the British Mandate era, and was used intensively by the thwarted Apartheid regime in South Africa. However, in Apartheid regime detention of this type was not subject of automatic extension, which is not the case with Israeli policy. This state of affairs forced a number of Palestinian Administrative detainees to wage prolonged hunger strikes in order to break this Israeli policy.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Palestinians in the OPT endure extremely harsh conditions under Israeli occupation rule. They follow on a daily basis the developments of Israeli politics, and look up to the International community to rise to meet its responsibilities. The developments inside Israel are seriously alarming whereby the state and political system are drifting into a fascist state of a kind according to some of its military and political figures. This state is depriving Palestinians from their right to freedom and liberty and right of self-determination. It carries out the settlement enterprise, and implement measures of transfer and ethnic-cleansing against Palestinians in and around the city of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, and most recently threatens Palestinian prisoners with death penalty.
Ladies and gentlemen
In Israeli jails and detention camps the number of Palestinian detainees and prisoners exceeded 7000, among them 1700 suffer from different illnesses; 750 administrative detainees; 70 female prisoners including 17 children; and 480 below 18 years of their age. In addition, Israel holds 6 MP members three out of which under administrative detention, apart from MPs Marwan Barghouthi, Ahmad Saadat, and Khalida Jarrar.
All those are looking up to your gathering today and expect significant support that reinforces their hope for freedom, security, and stability by launching a wide political, legal and media campaign in order to internationalize their cause. They realize, as well, that true freedom and living in peace cannot be achieved unless a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is reached within an international frame and on the basis of international references; a comprehensive political settlement that brings security and stability to all the peoples in the region including the Palestinian state, and rights of Palestinian refugees to return. This political settlement is the ultimate way to shut down all Israeli jails and detention camps, and to release all Palestinian freedom fighters.
Once again, we greet and solute your conference, and wish that it would succeed and uplift the message of Palestinian prisoners and detainees to the level of political priority in your countries in order to exert pressure on Israeli authorities to compile it to abide by relevant international laws and conventions pertaining to this issue.
Head of the Palestinian Expatriate Affairs Department – PLO