Palestinian Prisoners’ Club: A grass-roots initiative for forgotten detainees

The idea of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club (PPC) is born in jail.

Over 10,000 Palestinians are suffering human rights abuses in Israeli jails, many of whom are not convicted of any crime. A grass-roots initiative is aiming to provide representation to forgotten detainees.

The PPC starts in one small rented room in Bethlehem. Volunteers come from all over the West Bank to help families of detainees, assessing the needs and providing services accordingly. PPC employees and volunteers are often ex-detainees who have themselves experienced the harshness of Israeli military detention and wish to work to alert the public about it and help better their incarcerated fellow Palestinians’ situations.

The PPC acts as a watchdog and information centre. It employs lawyers who visit each of the 28 military jails twice a month, as well fulfilling appointments with specific detainees. These visits enable the PPC to keep track of detainees; they and the Red Cross are the only sources of information for families wondering about their relation’s situation. Most of the time, the Israeli military does not bother to contact the families of those arrested, even when the detainees are minors. Moreover, during jail visits, lawyers also collect data on detainees’ living conditions.

The Club does its best to provide detainees with the basic necessities the army deny them, such as materials to protect them from the weather. Funding comes from various sources. Donations are an important part of it, but the PPC also lobbies Palestinian municipalities and the PA for subventions.

The PPC also has to comply with Israeli regulations. For instance, it is not allowed to hand over clothes directly to the detainees any more. Only the families can do so – unless the detainees are from Gaza, in which case no visits are allowed. So the PPC give the clothes directly to relatives. Family visits are however rare and complicated. First, permission has to be granted by Israeli authorities. Second, visits take place on specific days as the Red Cross coordinates buses to the detention facilities.

The PPC also supports detainees financially so they can buy from the canteen. Depending on where the prisoner is from, the allocated sum varies. Prisoners from the West Bank or Gaza get 1000 NIS a month. Those from Jerusalem are entitled 1300 NIS. Finally, 1500 NIS per capita go to ‘1948 Palestinians’ (Palestinians of Israel).

The discrepancy comes from the fact that the PA and Palestinian organs such as the PPC are only allowed to provide for West Bank and Gaza Palestinians. Each month, the PPC pays a sum corresponding to the number of prisoners accounted for to a private company inside the jail, who then credit each detainee’s canteen account.

Jerusalem and 1948 Palestinians are technically Israel’s responsibility, so the money is paid directly to the families who have to buy what their relatives need themselves, on the outside, where things are more expensive, hence the numerical difference.

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Thanks to Palestine Monitor, 23 December 2010


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