An independent United Nations expert today said he was appalled by the ongoing human rights violations in Israeli prisons amid a wave of hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners.
More than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners began an open-ended hunger strike two weeks ago on 17 April – Palestinian Prisoners Day – to protest against unjust arrest procedures, arbitrary detention and bad prison conditions, according to a news release issued by the UN human rights office (OHCHR).
Prison authorities have reportedly taken punitive measures against those on hunger strike, including by denying them family and lawyer visits, confiscating their personal belongings and placing them in solitary confinement, the news release added.
“I am appalled by the continuing human rights violations in Israeli prisons and I urge the Government of Israel to respect its international human rights obligations towards all Palestinian prisoners,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work.
“Israel must treat those prisoners on hunger strike in accordance with international standards, including by allowing the detainees visits from their family members,” Mr. Falk added.
The independent expert noted that since the 1967 war, an estimated 750,000 Palestinians, including 23,000 women and 25,000 children, have gone through detention in Israeli jails. This constitutes approximately 20 per cent of the total Palestinian population in the occupied territory or 40 per cent of the Palestinian male population there.
“Israel’s wide use of administrative detention flies in the face of international fair trial standards,” said Mr. Falk, who noted that Israel currently holds around 300 Palestinians in administrative detention. “Detainees must be able to effectively challenge administrative detention orders, including by ensuring that lawyers have full access to the evidence on which the order was issued.”
The Special Rapporteur called on the international community to ensure that Israel complies with international human rights laws and norms in its treatment of Palestinian prisoners.