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Afternoons with IPCRI Palestinian Prisoners

March 6, 2013 Marina Hotel, Tel Aviv

The question on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has received new attention with the death of Arafat Jaradat and a rising number of hunger striking prisoners. According to B'Tselem, Israel is currently holding approximately 4600 Palestinian prisoners, including 159 under extended administrative detention. The prisoners are judged by military tribunals and are regularly denied their prisoners’ rights. In addition, there are regular Palestinian reports about the prisoners being tortured. 700 complaints of torture were submitted in 8 years, none of those were investigated. With this as a backdrop, another Afternoons With IPCRI was arranged in Tel Aviv, March 6th. The panel consisted of IPCRI’s two co-CEOs Riman Barakat and Dan Goldenblatt, Ms. Talia Sasson and Dr. Sufian Abu Zaida. Ms. Sasson is the former head of Special Tasks Divison at the State Attorney’s Office and a former Meretz Knesset candidate, while Dr. Abu Zaida is the former Palestinian minister of Prisoner Affairs and also a previous prisoner himself. Sasson started off explaining the two main types of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. One group consists of people that have committed criminal offenses and the other group is the administrative detainees. Administrative detainees are arrested without actually having committed a crime. The practice is justified by arguing that a more severe act is prevented by the detention. Sassen pointed out that such a practice is problematic in relation to the right to have a fair trial and the right of the prisoners to defend themselves. Dr. Sufian Abu Zaida agreed and explained his own personal experience with the Israeli prison system, being detained and prisoned several times. He pointed out the mistake made in the negotiations leading to the Oslo Agreement, not putting the issue of the prisoners as a top priority. The emergency laws from ‘45 are annually prolonged and facilitate the practice of administrative detention. Dr. Abu Zaida argued that there is a problem with Israel’s image as a democratic state as long as it sends people to jail without trials on the basis of such legislation. Dr. Abu Zaida also stressed the fact that administrative detainees could sit for years without getting an actual trial. They are presented before a judge every 6 months or so, but the detention term is usually extended. In many cases if the accused accepts not to be present at the hearing, the sentence is reduced compared to if they choose to be present. He also criticized the way the Israeli prison system deals with sensitive evidence. Not presenting the prosecuted with all evidence because the national security needs to be protected, lowers the legitimacy and makes it difficult for the prosecuted to run his case. Sasson argued that the prisoners issue needs to be addressed from a policy point of view, something that Dr. Abu Zaida also agreed in. She stressed that the people in security organizations are not the ones deciding what policies are enforced, which is also why we need a political initiative. Sasson suggested creating a stronger connection between the peace talks and the prisoners issue, and that such an initiative should come from the stronger part; Israel. The initiative would have to show that Israel means business and thus could be a more extensive prisoner release. However, the discrepancy in the status of the prisoners among Palestinians and Israelis makes this a www.ipcri.org www.facebook.com/IPCRI office@ipcri.org +972 (0)2 676 9460


Afternoons with IPCRI Palestinian Prisoners

March 6, 2013 Marina Hotel, Tel Aviv

problematic move. Palestinians look at the prisoners as heroes and freedom fighters, while most Israelis view them as criminals and terrorists. This makes prisoner release politically controversial for any left- or right-wing government in Israel. Hence, one of the main questions is how to persuade a larger part of the Israeli public that such a measure is ok. Related to this and the possibilities for progress in negotiations, it is crucial that this initiative comes from the Israeli government. At the same time such an initiative would strengthen forces in the Palestinian society connected to president Abu Mazen and thus strengthen the Palestinian support to the current administration. Dr. Abu Zaida explained how the Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for Shalit were mostly Hamas members. He questioned why there was no release of Palestinian prisoners who had been in jail from before the intifada. He explained how the cooperation with Hamas on the Shalit exchange undermined Palestinian authorities and worked to delegitimize the peace process. With this as a last example, both Sassen and Dr. Abu Zaida agreed that the Occupation is the main problem, allowing the continued existence of the prisoner system, and that this is where the political measures have to be implemented.

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Afternoons with IPCRI - Palestinian Prisoners  
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