Home > Rubriques > Languages - International > English > Members of European Parliament “deeply disturbed” by reports of (...)

Il est grand temps ! (ndlr)

Members of European Parliament “deeply disturbed” by reports of Palestinian detainees’ plight

Source: Ma’an

Friday 29 February 2008

Hebron – Ma’an – Members of the Human Rights Subcommittee of the European Parliament on Wednesday expressed “deep concern” at the plight of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, calling on the European Parliament should to send a fact-finding mission to Israel.

At a public hearing chaired by Hélène Flautre (Greens/EFA, FR), the subcommittee heard from Ashraf Al Ajrami, the Palestinian Authority’s minister for prisoners’ affairs, Fadwa Ibrahim, of the Free Marwan Barghouti Campaign, whose husband Marwan is the imprisoned Fatah Tanzim leader, and Anat Barsella of B’Tselem. Several MEPs denounced the Israeli Embassy’s decision not to send a representative to the hearing.

Equivalent of a third of Palestinians have been in jail

There was broad agreement on detainee numbers: currently over 10,000, including more than 300 children, around 100 women and over 40 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Since 1967 a number equivalent to over a third of the Palestinian population has spent time in jail. “If there are so many detainees, this says a lot about the political situation”, said Ms Ibrahim.

Ashraf Al Ajrami told MEPs that torture of prisoners is not only acknowledged but legally authorised by Israel. He listed other problems such as lack of medical care, overcrowding and obstacles facing relatives wanting to visit prisoners. “The European Union should push Israel to respect humanitarian law,” he added.

Fadwa Ibrahim emphasised the suffering of prisoners and their families, especially that of children, pointing out that under international conventions the imprisonment of children is supposed “to be a last resort and to be as short as possible”. She called for “political prisoners to be released immediately” and “an end to torture and acts in breach of the Geneva Convention”. To questions by EP vice-president Luisa Morgantini (GUE/NGL, IT) and subcommittee vice-chair Richard Howitt (PES, UK) about the situation of Palestinian women, she said “a Palestinian woman often has to be mother and father to her family”.

Anat Barsella described the legal position. Of “security detainees”, 47% are held because of membership of illegal organisations, which can even include charities. Under “administrative detention”, military commanders can detain individuals for up to six months, with unlimited renewals. Israel refuses to apply the Hague Convention and the fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Territories. Minors are not held separately from adults, in defiance of international law.

An EP fact-finding mission?

“My understanding is that the Israeli security agencies do not act in a vacuum but as part of a system that includes political support,” MEP Laima Andrikien said.

Subcommittee chair Hélène Flautre said the European Parliament should “put pressure on the Commission and Council” to raise these issues with Israel. She added that the European Parliament should contact the Israeli authorities with a view to sending a fact-finding mission. The aim must be “to get this issue higher up the political agenda: it is still too low,” she said.