Indian solidarity group protests the Israeli court ruling that Palestinian prisoners have no right to social distancing

Palestine Update 391

Indo-Palestine Solidarity Network (IPSN)

Indian solidarity group protests the Israeli court ruling that Palestinian prisoners have no right to social distancing

The Indo-Palestine Solidarity Network (IPSN) is a growing network of like-minded people drawn from all parts of the country committed to justice and freedom for Palestine. It seeks an end to the racist-colonialist-apartheid politics of Israel through which Israel’s Occupation of Palestinians and their lands have continued for the last 53 years. To enlarge our scope of influence we join with other organizations whose major concern is Palestine. We see the need to create consciousness and mobilize solidarity with the Palestinians on all issues of justice and equality and oppose the illegal annexation of their lands. We desire a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. IPSN is globally linked through thousands of Palestinian Christians and people of other faiths through Kairos Palestine and the Global Kairos for Justice Coalition.

IPSN was shocked when we heard the news that Israel’s Supreme Court had ruled that Palestinians held in prison are no different than family members or flat mates living in same home. The Israel’s Supreme Court ruling that Palestinian prisoners have no right to social distancing and, hence, protection against coronavirus smacks of utter cruelty and is in violation of elementary humanitarian standards. The prison facility to which this ruling applies refers to the Gilboa prison a facility in northern Israel housing about 450 Palestinians classified by Israel as “security prisoners”. It sounds bizarre legally speaking too. We have been following the arguments of “Adalah”, the independent human rights organization and legal center in the case. In a statement released following the ruling, ‘Adalah’ slammed the court for accepting the rather absurd narrative presented to it by Israeli authorities that Covid-19 social distancing policies – essential for everyone else – are not relevant to the Palestinian ‘security prisoners’ it holds behind bars”.

All citizens, whatever the cause of their imprisonment have the right to decent and livable conditions, which are even more vital in the times when a pandemic such as Covid-19 has gripped our world. What is the logic by which the Israel Court claims that social distancing policies essential for protecting prisoners serving time for criminal charges are somehow not relevant for ‘security prisoners’? Adalah, in its arguments to the court, claimed that the court must grant protection to the prisoners  for whose health and safety it holds direct responsibility.

Equating prisons with family living rooms, while prisoners continue to be forced to come into daily contact with guards potentially exposed to Covid-19 outside the prison walls is absurd and inhuman. Adalah further argues that the “precedent-setting ruling” endangers the lives and health of Palestinians held by Israel, and poses a threat to society as a whole. The Court’s contention is in complete contrast with that which health and human rights professionals around the world who have called for social distancing within prisons have claimed. Palestinians held by Israel are cruelly left exposed to the virus with no option to protect themselves.

Just three months ago, a group of UN human rights experts directed Israel “not to discriminate against” thousands of Palestinian prisoners facing high-risk exposure to coronavirus, asking the country to release the most vulnerable among them. There are more than 4,520 Palestinian prisoners, including 183 children, 43 women and 700 detainees with pre-existing medical conditions in Israeli jails. In a discriminatory gesture, Israel had released hundreds of Israeli prisoners due to the pandemic, but refused to release any of its Palestinian inmates. “This indicates discriminatory treatment towards Palestinians prisoners – a violation of international law,” the UN group said.

At Gilboa prison alone, at least 30 prison guards and seven inmates have contracted coronavirus, while 489 guards and 58 prisoners are currently in quarantine, according to Israeli state representatives. At least one of the coronavirus patients is also battling cancer. Conditions in Gilboa prison currently make it impossible for inmates to maintain social distance, with six prisoners housed in each 22 square metres cell, which includes three bunk beds, a shared toilet and a bathroom. “Under these conditions, prisoners are unable to adhere to [the] Israeli Health Ministry’s social distancing guidelines for preventing the spread of Covid-19, thus endangering their safety and lives,” Adalah pointed out.  International humanitarian law prohibits Israel from holding Palestinians from the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem or Gaza in prisons within Israel, as the law prohibits civilians – including detainees and prisoners – from occupied land to be transferred to the territory of the occupying power. Israel violates this law with impunity.

IPSN demands that Israel follow all requisite laws without discrimination against Palestinian prisoners. It notes, especially, that this law must be applied because almost all Palestinian prisoners are detained for political reasons and not common crimes.

Rev. Dr Roger Gaikwad                                                         Zita Fernandes
President                                                                                General Secretary

Monday, July 27, 2020

Secretariat: Ranjan Solomon
149/D, Gina, Maina-Curtorim, Salcete, Goa 403709, India

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