by Julie Webb-Pullman
On the other side of the world, in New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington, several members of the local Muslim community braved the freezing cold to hold a vigil in Civic Square calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
They released the following Press Statement: The Muslim Community of Wellington, New Zealand held a vigil on Friday May 9, 2014 at Civic Square, Wellington to draw attention to the critical situation of Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails, and to express their solidarity with them.
Since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, over 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned, many without charge or trial. That is one in four Palestinians in the occupied territories. 40% of male Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have spent time in Israeli jails.
There are currently 175 Palestinians in administrative detention, including 11 MPs, elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
‘Administrative detention’ usually targets Palestinian politicians, activists and academics, who can be held for up to six months without charge or trial, based on secret evidence which neither they nor their lawyers have access to. Frequently, the order under which they are held is renewed on or just before their detention is due to end. This process can be continued indefinitely. At least half of ‘administrative detainees’ never have a trial.
Children are also targeted – as at January 2014, there were 230 Palestinian child prisoners (under 18) being held without charge. Children are usually held in the same cells as adults, breaching international law. More than 6,000 Palestinian children have been imprisoned since 2000. Some 700 Palestinians between 12 and 17 years old are arrested and interrogated every year.
Nor are women exempt – there are 19 Palestinian women currently imprisoned, of an estimated 10,000 Palestinian women who have been arrested and detained by the Israeli military since 1967. They are subjected to severe abuse during interrogation, including various forms of torture, and pregnant women give birth while shackled to the bed.
Palestinian prisoners and administrative detainees are denied access to basic health services, usually receiving mild pain relief only. Cancer is left untreated, and amputation of infected limbs is all too common. Some 200 Palestinians in Israeli jails suffer from schizophrenia, 20 are otherwise mentally impaired, 120 have epilepsy, 25 have been diagnosed with cancer – and few are adequately medically-managed.
Palestinians are subjected to both physical and psychological torture during interrogation. In February 2013, Palestinian detainee Arafat Jaradat, 30, died of a heart attack two days after his detention following severe beatings by agents of the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad.
Since 1967, more than 205 Palestinian detainees have died in Israeli jails due to torture, denial of health treatment, or deliberate killing, 82 of them since 2000.
In addition to showing our solidarity with these victims of Israel’s breaches of international law, we call for the High Contracting Parties of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfil their obligations as signatories to this international agreement, to bring an end to the arbitrary detention of Palestinians, and ensure their humane treatment in accordance with international law.