Jeddah 08th April 2020: The OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) is deeply concerned over the repeated reports of ill treatment by Israel, the occupying power, to over 5000 Palestinian prisoners, including women and children. In the backdrop of ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, the lack of mandatory basic hygiene and health facilities to protect these vulnerable Palestinian inmates have assumed even greater importance and need to be ensured in accordance with Article 76 of the Geneva Convention and relevant provisions of the international human rights and humanitarian laws.
Israel, an occupying power, is under obligation to ensure the physical and mental health and wellbeing of all inmates. Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, mandates that "[a]ll persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person." General Comment No. 21 of the U.N. Human Rights Committee, further provides that States have "a positive obligation toward persons who are particularly vulnerable because of their status as persons deprived of liberty”. Also, UN Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), stipulate that ‘‘Prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation’’.
The Commission regretted that, the occupying power, routinely flouts its international obligations under the illegal and immoral pretext of ‘administrative detentions’ by indefinitely detaining scores of Palestinian children and innocent civilians in prisons, without any charge, and without access to justice. In view of the global health emergency, precarious hygienic conditions, inadequate health services and overcrowded Israeli prisons constitute perfect conditions for catastrophic spread of pandemic, putting lives of inmates at grave risk and creating environment for major unrest in the prisons. Genuine concerns related to COVID-19 have already prompted an international appeal by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to all the governments to “examine ways to release those particularly vulnerable to this pandemic”, including, “those detained without sufficient legal basis, political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views.”
The Commission urges the international community, especially the United Nations, to pressurize the Israeli government to: (a) immediately release all those who are arbitrarily detained without any legal basis and those particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, among them older and infirm Palestinian detainees, women and children; (b) safeguard the human rights of all Palestinian inmates by providing adequate preventive, protective and therapeutic health services; (c) arrange alternative means for families to connect with inmates in case they are incommunicado due to quarantine; and (d) respect their right to fair trial and access to justice.