Addameer Press Release - 26 May 2003
Palestinian Prisoner’s Issue Must Not Be Sidelined
On the morning of Sunday 11 May 2003, the Israeli authorities released 62 Palestinian administrative detainees from the Ketziot Military Camp. The next day, Monday 12 May, another 90 Palestinian prisoners were released. However, after reviewing the files of all those released, Addameer has observed that the vast majority of those released on Sunday were to end their administrative detention orders within a few days, and the remainder were to be released by 30 May 2003. All 90 prisoners released the next day were criminal prisoners, the majority of whom were arrested and imprisoned because of entering Israel without a permit. This ’good will gesture’, as Israel has deemed it, is simply a superficial act that aims to convince the world that Israel is releasing Palestinian detainees.
There are approximately 5,200 Palestinian and Arab prisoners currently being held in Israeli prisons. Of that number, 70 are women, and over 1,150 are administrative detainees, held without charge or trial. The majority of Palestinian administrative detainees are being held at Ketziot Military Camp in the Negev Desert, and the remainder at Ofer Military Camp near Ramallah.
Israel’s use of administrative detention is a form of arbitrary detention, in that it detains individuals for extended periods of time, sometimes years, without charge or fair trial, arrests are based on a secret file which neither the detainee nor his/her lawyer have access to, in violation of international law and conventions. Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "no individual shall be detained, imprisoned or deported arbitrarily." Israel has consistently violated international standards of detention in its systematic use of administrative detention.
To address the Palestinian prisoners issue in the context of good will gestures and confidence building measures sentences any political negotiations or peace process to failure. Israel’s arrest and imprisonment of Palestinians over the decades of Israeli occupation is an issue that has affected and continues to affect every Palestinian. Since the beginning of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967, over 650,000 Palestinians have been arrested by Israel. This forms 20 percent of the total Palestinian population. When one considers that the majority of those arrested or detained are male, this number jumps to over 40 percent of the male population. Any negotiations or processes aimed at resolving the conflict must address this basic issue at its root, and ensure the unconditional release of all Palestinian prisoners.
Document of political principles released by the Palestinian Prisoners Movement in Israeli Occupation Prisons and Detention Camps
We, the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli occupation prisons and detention centers, affirm the following points as our declaration of principles :
1. The issue of Palestinian prisoners is first and foremost a political issue, which is the result of a period of struggle for national liberation and independence. As such, it is a whole that cannot be divided from the political sphere.
2. We, the Palestinian prisoners, affirm that the prisoners file is one unified file that cannot be divided or geographically categorized, and that the political approach to it cannot consider phases. The only manner in which to deal with this issue is to ensure the unconditional release of all prisoners.
3. The unity of the Palestinian prisoners file, without political divisions by party, just as dealing with the Palestinian issue as that of an entire nation without political divisions, is the only foundation on which to deal with this issue. There must be no categorization or distinction between prisoners based on their political affiliation or otherwise.
4. Palestinian prisoners are considered as a unit in regards to unjust sentencing that was passed by the courts of the Israeli occupation, and as such there must be no respect for such sentences, or the period of these sentences, from a political perspective, as these occupation courts are a part of the system of occupation that is rejected, and are politically unjust.
5. The issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli occupation prisons and detention centers is a national issue of the first degree, an issue that affects the whole of the Palestinian nation, wherever Palestinians may be. It is an issue of national agreement and there must be no distinction between this issue and any other affecting the Palestinian nation, other than the fact that it is an extremely sensitive issue and carries a great deal of importance
6. We strongly emphasize that the prisoners file must not be marginalised, delayed or only periodically dealt with in any political negotiations or agreements. The prisoners issue is a fundamental issue and any political negotiations or agreements should not be pursued unless they deal with this basic issue and come to a final and complete resolution.
7. Palestinian prisoners in Israeli occupation prisons and detention centers call on all Palestinian national groups, committees, all PLO representatives, the Palestinian National Authority, all Palestinian movements and organizations inside and outside Palestine, and all branches of these organizations, including unions, associations, ministries, etc. to deal with the prisoners issue with the responsibility and importance it demands within the spirit of the above mentioned principles.
8. All representatives and political parties hold this responsibility and must genuinely work towards reestablishing this issue and to rally around it, and to refuse any solutions or agreements that sideline and divide this issue. Their role is to reinforce the importance of this issue as a whole and to resolve it.
9. Palestinian prisoners are the pioneers in defending Palestinian national interests, and have struggled to realize Palestinian goals, hopes, dreams and desires. The Palestinian prisoners are to be considered as messengers of the Palestinian nation and its fighters in order to remove the occupation and to achieve national independence. As such, the prisoners issue is a part of the whole Palestinian struggle that cannot be separated from the pursuit of national liberty and independence.
10. The Palestinian leadership, organizations and representatives, as well as the Palestinian people and all its associations, should refuse any partial solution to the prisoners issue, and should learn from the experience of previous negotiations and agreements from Madrid until Taba. The foundation for dealing with these negotiations is that any agreement or peace is not possible without releasing all Palestinian prisoners, without distinction.
11. Palestinian prisoners reaffirm their absolute and nonnegotiable right to liberty and the right to resist the occupation. The responsibility of the release of all prisoners within occupation prisons and detention centers is a sacred duty for the entire Palestinian nation with all its political parties and various actors. It is necessary that the political leadership takes advantage and learns from what has happened in the past.
12. The previous political experience regarding the prisoners issue and the experience of these past years has proved the failure to approach the issue politically. It has become clear that solving the Palestinian prisoners issue will not be realized unless all forms of political pressure and solidarity activities from the Arab and international community are utilized, along with all other methods of struggle. Using only one method of struggle will not bring the necessary results.
13. The Palestinian prisoners issue is an on-going and live issue that cannot be related to any other issue, particularly as it concerns human beings, families, strugglers and the community. Based on this, the prisoners file should not be placed within the context of other issues or as good will or confidence building measures. It is an important issue in its own right. It is immoral to deal with peoples lives on the basis of good will measures. It is difficult to build confidence amongst those who are continuously trying to destroy you
14. The Palestinian people, leadership, organizations, associations, movements, trade unions, general unions, committees, and groups should understand and be aware that it is not possible to resolve the prisoners issue within the occupation prisons and detention centers through experimental negotiations alone. The acting Palestinian national committees should learn from the experiences of other nations and should act according to the importance of this issue in order to resolve it.
15. Based on the above, our people must understand that :
Ensuring the release of all Palestinian prisoners is a sacred duty for our people, and fundamentally relies on our people and its existing committees throughout the world. What is demanded is that existing committees, organizations and leadership change their strategies in regards to this issue in order to ensure a fundamental solution of the prisoners issue : the unconditional release of all Palestinian prisoners.
The Palestinian Prisoners Movement in Israeli Occupation Prisons and Detention Centers
30 April 2003
[translated from Arabic by Addameer]