Jerusalem24 – While incarcerated Israeli criminals are allowed regular and even daily access to phone calls, Palestinian prisoners serving time for resisting the occupation have been denied this right, today said the Israeli rights organization, HaMoked.
However, following a High Court petition lead by HaMoked, the Israel Prison Service announced that it will allow Palestinian prisoners and detainees to make a one-time phone call to their families during the month of Ramadan. The decision does not include prisoners from the Gaza Strip affiliated with Hamas, who are also denied family visits.
The petition was filed by eight Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations: HaMoked, Addameer, Al-Mezan, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture and Parents Against Child Detention.
The petition demanded that incarcerated Palestinians, classified as “security” prisoners and detainees be allowed to maintain telephone contact with their families, given the prolonged cessation of prison visits due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The original petition also demanded a mechanism for regular family contact for minor detainees – a demand that has been partially met by the IPS allowing twice-monthly phone calls for minors to their parents.
At the hearing this week, the High Court refused to address the principled issue of the right of all “security” inmates to have regular contact with their families during the pandemic. This in spite of the prevention of all family visits from the West Bank and the blanket prohibition of phone calls for all “security” prisoners – in contrast with criminal prisoners who have regular, even daily access to phone calls.
The judges were of the view that the one-time Ramadan phone call and the granting of phone calls to specialized populations of prisoners (minors, women and those hospitalized) was sufficient at this stage, given what they termed “the dynamic situation”. In addition, the judges noted that prisoners interested in additional phone calls could request them, and file an individual prisoner petition if they were refused. In this light, the judges compelled the petitioners to withdraw the petition.
Commenting on the High Court ruling, HaMoked’s Executive Director, Jessica Montell, said: “A full year into the pandemic, with rising COVID cases in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the Israel Prison Service has failed to ensure regular contact between Palestinian prisoners and their families. Most prisoners have not had contact with their families for many long months, so we are disappointed that the Court refused to address the principle involved. It is unreasonable to put the burden on individual prisoners who will now each have to file a petition to demand their rights to family life and humane treatment.”