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Committee: IPS mistreatment of Palestinian women and ill prisoners persists

June 6, 2017 5:59 P.M. (Updated: June 7, 2017 11:25 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- More than a week after hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons ended a 40-day hunger strike aimed at improving prison conditions for Palestinian detainees, dozens of Palestinian women have continued to protest “humiliating and oppressive procedures” imposed by the Israel Prison Service (IPS), while Palestinians in Israel’s Ramla prison clinic have complained of medical neglect.

After Palestinian women held in HaSharon prison warned that they would undertake measures against abusive IPS policies on Monday, 33 women returned their dinners and refused to enter the prison yard on Tuesday, according to Hiba Masalha, a lawyer for the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs.

The prisoners accused IPS of humiliating strip searches, long journeys from prisons to courts in the company of Israeli civilian prisoners, a continued ban on receiving any objects from visiting relatives, and mistreatment by a female IPS commander in their section of the prison -- touching on some of the issues raised in the recent mass hunger strike.

The women also said that IPS had continued attempts to transfer 11 of the women to Ramla prison in central Israel, where many of the Israeli inmates are imprisoned for criminal cases. Palestinian detainees are deemed “security prisoners” by Israel and “political prisoners” by Palestine -- potentially putting the women in harm’s way among the general Israeli prison population.

A spokesperson for IPS told Ma’an that he was aware of the women skipping one meal, but was not aware of any of their complaints regarding their ill treatment by IPS.

Some 56 Palestinian women are currently being imprisoned by Israel, according to the prisoners' committee. However, prisoners' rights group Addameer said that there were 61 Palestinian women and girls in Israeli custody as of April.

According to Addameer, the majority of Palestinian women detainees in Israeli prisons have been subjected to "psychological torture" and "ill-treatment" by Israeli authorities, including "various forms of sexual violence that occur such as beatings, insults, threats, body searches, and sexually explicit harassment.”

Palestinians in Ramla prison accuse IPS of medical neglect

According to a separate statement released by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, imprisoned Palestinian Ashraf Abu al-Huda, 39, from Nablus city, told Mutaz Shqeirat, a lawyer for the committee, that he has been experiencing a “difficult health condition,” as he has suffered from feet and back pains and could not move his fingers.

Abu al-Huda, who was detained in 2014, said that his medical issues stemmed from being injured with a live bullet in the pelvis when he was detained by Israeli forces. While the bullet was removed, shrapnel from the bullet remained in a “sensitive area,” he said.

He now must use a wheelchair at all times to be able to move, while IPS has only provided him pain killers for his condition, he added.

In addition, according to the statement, Palestinian prisoner Saleh Omar Saleh, 21, from Balata refugee camp in Nablus, told Shqeirat that he has suffered from “severe back pains” due to injuries sustained during his detention in April when Israeli forces shot him with four bullets at a checkpoint, after he allegedly attempted a stabbing attack on Israeli forces.

Earlier reports stated that Saleh was 16-years-old, in contradiction to the committee’s statement.

Saleh told Shqeirat that while three of the bullets had been removed, one has remained in his back, “paralyzing his movement.”

Like al-Huda, Saleh is now confined to a wheelchair, while IPS has provided him anticoagulants (blood thinners) as treatment.

Rights groups have long condemned Israel for its medical negligence of Palestinians in its prisons, which Addameer has called a "deliberate policy of neglect."

IPS maintains no agreements were reached to improve conditions after hunger strike

The medical neglect of Palestinian prisoners was a central issue during the recent hunger strike, which also included demands for an end to the denial of family visits, the right to pursue higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention -- imprisonment without charge or trial -- among other demands for basic rights.

The hunger strike reportedly resulted in a number of agreements being reached between Palestinian prisoners and Israeli authorities, including an agreement to gather all female Palestinian prisoners in HaSharon.

However, while the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs announced that 80 percent of the hunger strikers’ demands were met, IPS has repeatedly stated that it did not engage in negotiations with the prisoners.

An IPS spokesperson previously told Ma’an that the only outcome of the strike was the restoration of family visitation sessions for prisoners to two times a month, resulting from an agreement made between the PA and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), without the involvement of Israeli authorities.

Nevertheless, Barghouthi said last week that the hunger strikers were able to “extract a number of just and humanitarian achievements” from prison authorities, and that prisoners had agreed to the formation of a “committee of senior officials of the Prison Service” to continue dialogue with representatives of the Palestinian prisoners during the following days “to discuss all issues without exception.”

On Monday, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported that a meeting had taken place between IPS and the leaders of the hunger strike, but did not provide more specific details.

An IPS spokesperson told Ma’an on Tuesday that he “didn’t want to” confirm the meeting that was reportedly held, but said that IPS “speaks to the prisoners all the time.”

According to Addameer, 6,300 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of April, most of whom are being held inside the Israeli territory in contravention of international law.

Addameer has reported that 40 percent of the male Palestinian population has been detained by Israeli authorities at some point in their lives.
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