New Israeli law on deduction of prisoner allowances is collective punishment

 

 

 

4 July 2018

17/2018

 

New Israeli law on deduction of prisoner allowances is collective punishment

 

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) denounces the Israeli law on deduction of allowances paid to Palestinian prisoners and martyrs’ families from Palestinian revenues collected by the Israelis on behalf of the Palestinian government. On 2 July 2018, the Israeli Knesset approved the law in the second and third readings. The law unlawfully encroaches on funds owed to Palestinians under agreements signed between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel’s government. Affecting the rights of these segments of the Palestinian society, the law violates prisoners and prisoner families’ right to a life with dignity.

The Israeli law provides that the Israeli Minister of Internal Security will submit an annual report to Israel’s security cabinet, outlining the funds the Palestinian government transfers to Palestinian prisoners and families of Palestinian victims of Israeli violations. The amount will be divided into 12 parts and deducted on a monthly basis from the tax revenues collected and transferred by Israel to the Palestinian public treasury. Affected amounts comprise almost 7 percent of the Palestinian government budget.

This Israeli law coincides with the United States and Australian governments’ decisions to cut off assistance to the Palestinian government and withhold support to the United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA). This is part of the sustained pressure exerted on the Palestinian society to accept deals, which do not fulfil the minimum of Palestinian rights enshrined in International Law.

 

Palestinian prisoners are victims of the Israeli military justice system, which does not ensure minimum guarantees of a fair trial. 100% of Palestinian prisoners are tried before Israeli military courts with a conviction rate that exceeds 98%. Additionally, Palestinian prisoners are tried on grounds of confessions extracted under severe torture. According to Palestinian and Israeli human rights sources, 90% of Palestinian prisoners experience torture and mistreatment during the interrogation period. Furthermore, around 10% of Palestinian prisoners are held without trial under administrative detention orders.

 

Article 22 of the Palestinian Basic Law provides for the welfare of martyr families, prisoners and injured citizens: “Maintaining the welfare of families of martyrs, prisoners, the injured, and the disabled is a duty that shall be regulated by law. The National Authority shall guarantee for these persons the services of education, health and social insurance.” In the payment of monthly allowances to released prisoners, the government is informed by the Law No. 19 of 2004 on Prisoners and Released Prisoners, amended by the Law by Decree No. 1 of 2013. Article 3 outlines the means by which purposes of the Law are achieved as well as the role played by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in this regard. The law states that it is it is under the responsibility of the PNA to work on the release of the prisoners and support their integration in the society. The law provided for the criteria according to which the government shall pay for the prisoners and their families. The Commission of the Prisoners and ex-prisoners affairs is responsible for handling the implementation of the Law.

Article 1 of the 2004 Law on Prisoners and Released Prisoners defines the released prisoner as “every prisoner who is released from prisons of the occupation”. Article 2 describes released prisoners as “a struggling group and integral part of the Arab Palestinian society’s fabric. The provisions of the Law safeguards a life with dignity for them and for their families.” Care for the families affected by the Israeli occupying authorities is a legal, regulatory and administrative component of the Palestinian political system. The welfare of prisoner families is governed by the Law No. 19 of 2004 and Law by Decree No. 1 of 2013 Amending the Law on Prisoners and Released Prisoners.

The State of Palestine is responsible for providing social security to the families of prisoners and released prisoners. To maintain social stability, this is also in tandem with an international legal norm, which ensures the welfare of affected families, regardless of their members’ actions. As victims of the occupation, prisoners serving time in jails and released prisoners will benefit from service provision to ensure they enjoy an adequate standard of living.

Article 98 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War provides that that prisoners have the right to receive financial assistance from their respective states: “Internees may receive allowances from the Power to which they owe allegiance, the Protecting Powers, the organisations which may assist them, or their families, as well as the income on their property in accordance with the law of the Detaining Power […] The Detaining Power shall open a regular account for every internee, to which shall be credited the allowances named in the present Article, the wages earned and the remittances received, together with such sums taken from him as may be available under the legislation in force in the territory in which he is interned. Internees shall be granted all facilities consistent with the legislation in force in such territory to make remittances to their families and to other dependants. They may draw from their accounts the amounts necessary for their personal expenses, within the limits fixed by the Detaining Power.”

There is, therefore, nothing incompatible with International Law and International Humanitarian Law as to the need to pay allowances or subsidies to prisoner families and to released prisoners, whose families totally depend on them to provide sustenance, a life with dignity, and an adequate standard of living. Prisoners and released prisoners’ right to financial allowances should be maintained, particularly for those who served a long time in captivity, are unable to work, and lack the proper rehabilitation to help them work, live with dignity, and sustain and ensure an adequate standard of living for their families.

The occupying Power continues to violate International Law and internationally recognised resolutions, target and increase the suffering of Palestinian prisoners. In violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Palestinians are detained in the territory of the occupying Power. Israel does not recognise Palestinian prisoners as prisoners of war, to whom the Third Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War is applicable. Further abusing their rights, Israel has approved the law on deduction of allowances paid to Palestinian prisoners and families of martyrs from the PNA clearance revenues.

According to statistics of the Palestinian Commission of Prisoners and Release Prisoners, there are 6,500 Palestinian prisoners, including 350 children, 63 women, eight girls, 10 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and 500 Palestinians held in administrative detention (arrest without charge or trial). Of these, 1,800 prisoners are ill, including 700 who are in need of urgent medical attention. Forty five prisoners have served more than 20 years in prison.

The most recent Israeli law is another link in the chain of violations and arbitrary practices against Palestinian prisoners and their rights. These measures need to be exposed. Against this background, the ICHR calls:

  1. On the State of Palestine to launch a broad international campaign and reinvigorate the issue of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons. In this context, the State of Palestine needs to consider obtaining a UN General Assembly resolution to request an advisory opinion form the International Court Justice in order to determine the legal status of, and occupying Power’s obligations towards, Palestinian prisoners in reference of the four Geneva Conventions and relevant international instruments.
  2. On the UN and international community to exert pressure on the occupying Power to suspend and reverse the law in question.
  3. For supporting the Palestinian leadership’s position to continue to pay the salaries of prisoners and released prisoners as a legal entitlement for both the prisoners and their families.
  4. On international human rights organisations to monitor the issue of Palestinian prisoners and intervene with their governments to place pressure on the occupying Power to desist from arbitrary practices against prisoners and the pressure it exerts on the State of Palestine.
  5. On Member States of the European Union to put to effect Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which provides that the occupying Power should respect human rights, with a view to maintaining economic cooperation with Israel.