The voice of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails is being heard since April 17 when they announced an all-out hunger strike; around 1,500 prisoners have joined in this hunger strike.
The hunger strike is an appeal to humanity in Israel and worldwide to draw attention to the torture, deprivation and human rights violations faced by prisoners in Israeli political prisons.
This strike asserts the just demand by Palestinian prisoners for their basic rights and human dignity to be respected. They have rights that are guaranteed under international humanitarian law such as the Geneva Convention, and human rights laws and norms oblige the occupation state to observe the basic rights of prisoners.
There are around 6500 Palestinian detainees and prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centers, including 300 children, 61 women and 13 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. These prisoners represent all sectors of the Palestinian people; their detention is a source of concern and distress for their families and all Palestinians. Their detention is a blatant violation of human dignity and Palestinian sovereignty.
Prisoners undergo several forms of inhumane treatment, starting with arbitrary arrest, psychological and physical torture, and cruel and inhumane treatment during interrogation. It ends in the absence of a fair trial, the forbidding of meetings with attorneys, and solitary confinement. These violations conflict with the international and legal commitments of the occupation state and are contrary to human conscience and the teachings of all religions.
There are now 500 administrative detainees in occupation prisons. Many of them have spent long years in detention without charge or being permitted the right to defend themselves properly because the majority of evidence presented to military courts is confidential and inaccessible to defense attorneys. The courts issue sentences to extend detention in an arbitrary manner and prevent detainees from meeting with their lawyers, thereby acting as an accessory in the violation of detainee’s rights.
The key demands made by prisoners and detainees in this strike is to end the practice of administrative detention, increase family visits, and expand the circle of family members permitted to visit. The location of the detention centers and prisons outside the occupied territories is itself a violation of international law, and exacerbates the suffering of families who require a permit to visit their sons and daughters, placing them at the mercy of the occupation. This infringes the rights and dignity of families.
Prisoners, particularly those who are sick or have a disability, demand the provision of decent health services, the replacement of prison clinics with external health and medical services, and permission for specialist physicians to visit them.
Kairos, the Palestinian Christian voice, expresses its support for the just and humanitarian demands of prisoners – children, women and the sick – and their families. Kairos deems it intolerable to see prisoners engaged in an all-out hunger strike to obtain basic rights and humanitarian demands that should be granted to them as human beings and are applicable to all under international law.
We view all prisoners as human beings whose dignity is granted by God; no man or occupying power has the right to deprive them of what was granted by God. The norm is freedom and a just peace for them and the entire Palestinian people. It is unjust for the majority of a people to experience detention and imprisonment in occupation prisons because they demand their freedom and dignity. It is time for Israel to review its position and realize that its security does not lie in its prisons but in recognizing the freedom and dignity of the Palestinian people.
In the name of the humanitarian values espoused by every religion, and in the name of Christian values and teachings, we express our support for prisoners as human beings who possess dignity granted to them by their creator. We support them and demand their freedom; we support their humanitarian demands. Prisoners risk their lives with this demanding step of a hunger strike, but it also proves that their demands and stance are justified and sound.
Every human being with an active conscience should add their voice to those of the prisoners and demand that the authorities in Israel, Palestine, and the international community find an appropriate humanitarian solution so that no prisoner remains in his cell and no Palestinian is stripped off their freedom and dignity.
Our vision is that of every person as a human being whose freedom and dignity are granted by God, including prisoners and persecuted people who most need to enjoy their freedom and dignity.
Read more about Kairos Palestine here: www.kairospalestine.ps