Campaign for the Rights of Political Prisoners
To all Friends and Supporters of Human Rights around the World:
The Committee for the Families of Political Prisoners and Detainees in the West Bank, representing 7,500 political prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, is seeking the support of the international community in its campaign against the gross violations of their rights that the prisoners are enduring and against the appalling conditions under which they are being detained.
Political prisoners in Israeli prisons will be commencing a hunger strike on Sunday, August 15, 2004 to protest their conditions. They complain that the conditions they experience are reminiscent of the former Abu Ghoraib facility in Iraq which gained worldwide notoriety recently for its treatment of detainees.
When informed by the prisoners of their intended hunger strike prison authorities responded with harsher treatment, vowing not to give in to any of the prisoners´ demands even if the hunger strikes result in the deaths of prisoners.
Some of the conditions that the prisoners are protesting include:
Arbitrary and indiscriminate beating of prisoners in their cells, in prison courtyards and during transportation to and from prisons.
Arbitrary and indiscriminate firing of tear gas into prisoner´s cells and prison courtyards and intimidation of prisoners by guards entering their cells with guns.
Humiliating strip searches of prisoners in full view of other prisoners and guards each time they enter or exit their cells
Subjecting prisoners to solitary confinement for excessive periods of time, for months and even years.
Arbitrary imposition of financial penalties on prisoners for minor infractions, arbitrary revocation of visitation rights and extended confinement to cells as punishment for minor infractions such as singing or speaking too loudly
Confining children with adult prisoners and political prisoners with criminals
Withholding or delaying medical treatment and the provision of medication to sick detainees
Severely restricting the category of family members entitled to visit prisoners thus denying visitation rights to other close family members
Arbitrary denial of travel permits to family members of prisoners living in the West Bank or Gaza so that they cannot travel to prisons to see their relatives
Imposing conditions on travel for family members and obstacles that result in travel of a few hours being prolonged to 16 or 17 hours for a 45-minute visit
Conducting humiliating strip searches of visiting family members even though they are usually separated from the prisoners by a full glass barrier as well as a wire mesh barrier.
Providing such poor visitation facilities that prisoners find it difficult to see or hear their loved ones
Maintaining prisoners on near starvation diets that are insufficient to sustain health.
Applying rules concerning items that prisoners may receive from their families arbitrarily and inconsistently, on the whim of the guards, with each visit.
Withdrawing studying privileges that in the past allowed prisoners to continue their high school or university studies through correspondence courses
The treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israel violates both international and Israeli laws, as well as rules governing the administration of Israeli prisons. The Committee for the Families is planning a series of activities in the West Bank to coincide with the start of the hunger strike on August 15th. A press conference in Ramallah will kick off the campaign. Hunger strike solidarity tents will be set up in the centre of all the cities in the West Bank and in all the Red Cross Centres and will be occupied by the public around the clock for as long as the prisoners´ strike lasts. The Palestinian Prime Minister´s office has declared August 18th a National Day for Prisoners for all Palestinians to show solidarity with the prisoners. All government ministers, members of the Palestinian National Council and heads of all political parties will join the public in the Solidarity Tents and fast in support of the prisoners.
Other planned activities are: On Friday, August 20, after Jum´a prayers at mosques processions will march towards the Solidarity Tents. On Saturday, August 21st, Palestinians in various Israeli cities will march, together with other supporters, to the prisons where Palestinian political prisoners are being held and on Sunday, August 22, after church services processions will march to the Solidarity Tents. These processions will be held every weekend during the campaign. On August 23rd children of the prisoners will lead a procession. On August 25th all professionals involved in the Justice system in Palestine will congregate at the Solidarity Tents in their official legal gowns and will lead a procession to the centre of their cities. On August 26th the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Arun Gandhi, will lead a mass procession in Ramallah. On August 29th all members of the public are invited to join the open hunger strike and in the evening candlelight processions will be held.
The families of the Palestinian political prisoners plead with you, the members of the international community, to join in solidarity with our sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters who are being held in Israeli prisons by organizing an International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners on September 4, 2004. We ask you to demonstrate, march, hold silent vigils or activities to publicize the plight of the political prisoners and bring pressure on the government of Israel to cease these violations of law and to treat Palestinian prisoners as human beings entitled to basic human rights.
We ask you also register your protests by letter, fax, email, or telephone to the officials listed below. Ask them to stop the harsh treatment of Palestinian political prisoners and to accede the demands of the striking prisoners so that the conditions under which they are imprisoned are consistent with international norms of human rights and basic decency.
Also, please register your protest with your own political representatives and governments ministers.
Please send a copy of your protest message to firstname.lastname@example.org Messages of support from organizations would also be appreciated by the prisoners and their families. Please send them to the same address with some details of the organization. For more information visit our temporary website at www.palsolidarity.org/prisoners or telephone (972) 2 277 4602 or email: email@example.com
With much appreciation for your valued support,
Mahmoud Ziadi, General Secretariat,
Families of Palestinian Political Prisoners
PO Box 2151, Ramallah, Palestine