Since Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory in 1967, an estimated 700,000 Palestinians have been detained under Israeli military orders in the oPt. This constitutes approximately 20 percent of our total population and 40 percent of the male Palestinian population in the oPt. Israel arrested more than 13,000 Palestinians between 1993 and 2001 (i.e., the Oslo peace process years). Israel arrested an additional 50,000 Palestinians between the start of the Second Intifada in September 2000 and today.
As of January 2011, Israel holds roughly 6,000 Palestinian and Arab political prisoners in its prisons and detention centers, including 225 children and 39 women. This also includes 315 political prisoners that it has held since before the Oslo accords were concluded in 1993. These political prisoners should have been released by Israel per the terms of previous agreements between us.
Israel has used its power to arrest and detain as a means to control the Palestinian population and punish any political activity aimed at challenging Israel’s occupation, thus violating basic human rights values and norms. Even Palestinians peacefully protesting the confiscation of their lands are subject to arrest and detention.
The living conditions of Palestinian and Arab political prisoners detained by Israel fall far below accepted standards, including those under international humanitarian law, human rights law and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Since 2002-03 in particular, living conditions for prisoners have deteriorated considerably. Examples include abuse, denial and limitation of family visitation rights, prohibitions on physical contact during family visits, reduction of hours allowed for outdoor access and walks, prohibition of visits between prisoners, an increase in the use of solitary confinement and extreme limitations on access of communications and goods from outside.
Few issues command the consensus and support of our society like the issue of our political prisoners. Any genuine and meaningful peace process must see the immediate and coordinated release of our political prisoners who have been detained or arrested by Israel as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A permanent status agreement must provide for the release of all those remaining Palestinian and Arab political prisoners. Until such time, there must be a substantial and meaningful improvement of political prisoners’ living conditions in Israeli prisons and detention centers.
Missing Persons and the Remains of Fallen Persons
Since the beginning of the conflict, Israel has kept the remains of fallen Palestinians in its custody, refusing to return their remains to families for a dignified burial. Many of these fallen Palestinians are held by Israel in sites known as “cemeteries of numbers.” While the precise number of fallen Palestinian remains held by Israel in these cemeteries is not publicly available, Palestinian organizations estimate the number to be in the hundreds and thus far have documented 302 cases based on first-hand information gained directly from families in the oPt.
There is no justification for Israel’s refusal to address this humanitarian issue which prevents families from obtaining closure and a dignified burial for their loved ones. Any genuine peace agreement must see the return of the remains of all fallen Palestinians and their personal effects that are located in Israel. In addition, families should be provided with any available information concerning the remains of fallen or missing Palestinians abroad.
PLO Negotiations Affairs Department (NAD)