Since Israel's creation in 1948, Palestinians have been summarily detained by the Israeli military without any justifiable cause. In many cases, Palestinians have “disappeared”, never to return to their families. Those who do return often tell of torture and many are left scarred and disabled for life.
The effect has been to terrorise and subjugate mainstream Palestinian society into accepting an occupation with limited resistance.
According to figures released by the respected Palestinian Prisoners Support and Human Rights group Addameer, more than 650,000 civilians have been illegally imprisoned since the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. Because the majority of the detainees are male, this accounts for approximately 40% of the total male population in the occupied territories.
Appeals by Palestinians, the Arab and Muslim world - including international and even Israeli human rights groups - to international courts urging an end to Israel's illegal detentions have came to nothing.
During the present Intifada between September 2000 to April 2003, more than 28,000 Palestinians are being held by Israel. It is believed that the Israeli's have five interrogation centres, seven detention/holding centres, three military detention camps and nine prisons that are known of.
On Palestinian Prisoner Day, 20 April 2003, the Palestinian Deputy Minister of Prisoners Radhi al-Juraayi estimated that Israel is holding 7254 Palestinian prisoners including 322 children and 62 women in.
Many of the prisoners are “administrative detainees” in Israeli prison compounds.
Administrative detainees are Palestinians held without charge or trial for renewable six-month terms. A detainee can be interrogated repeatedly for up to 180 days without access to a lawyer or medical treatment.
They are often subjected to physical and psychological torture, which is considered legal within the Israeli judicial system.
This has drawn condemnation from human rights watchdogs who cite the UN, Geneva Conventions and international law which all deem the use of torture and detention without legal process or trial illegal.
Dr Mahmoud Sahweel of the Torture Victims Rehabilitation Centre says that “25% of the Palestinian population has been detained. Forty-eight per cent of the prisoners’ family members have been tortured, while 40% are suffering psychological problems because of the hardship.”
Israel has been violating international laws regarding the rights and protection of children under UN resolutions.
An Israeli martial order, number 132, was issued after the occupation of the West Bank and contains the following violations:
- Detaining children between 12-14 up to six months period.
- Detaining children between 14-16 for a period may reach up to ten years.
- Applying laws, penalties and punishments designed for adults on children between 16-18 by keeping the child in detention until he/she reaches the adult age.
- The order allows juvenile prisoners to be tried by martial courts, which is a violation to the international law.
The 37th article of the UN charter of 1957 stipulated that juvenile detainees must be treated properly and the authority of detention must take into consideration the reason and the crime that the child was detained for.
Palestinian and Israeli peace organisations are publicising the situation, hoping to put pressure on the Israeli government and secure the release of the thousands of the prisoners.