MPPM fears for the physical integrity and the life of Palestinian political prisoners
MPPM – Portuguese Movement for the Rights of the Palestinian People and for Peace in the Middle East - expresses its deep concern for the physical integrity, if not the lives, of Palestinian resistance fighters held by Israel, and calls on the Portuguese government to take the necessary actions to ensure that Israel respects the rights of Palestinian prisoners in its custody.
Immediately following the courageous escape of six Palestinian political prisoners from the high security Gilboa prison - located on the territory of the occupying power State of Israel, in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention - the Israeli Prison Service and occupying forces instituted a series of retaliatory measures against the more than 4700 Palestinian political prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons - which included the forced transfer and mass interrogation of prisoners, a ban on family visits, and the confinement of all prison sections with Palestinian political prisoners - and against the Palestinian civilian population residing in the occupied Palestinian territory - namely the establishment of arbitrary checkpoints, violent raids on Palestinian towns and villages, and the assault, arbitrary detention, and interrogation of family members of escaped prisoners - in a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law most clearly enshrined in Article 33(1) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits collective punishment.
Human rights organizations have called on the International Red Cross to oversee the situation of Palestinian resisters who have since been recaptured, expressing concern for their safety and lives, which is not an unfounded fear given that Israel has a long history of torturing and ill-treating Palestinian detainees - sparing neither women nor minors - as amply documented in reports by Palestinian, Israeli or international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International.
The UN Committee Against Torture - a body of 10 independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Israel is a state party - in the latest available report expresses concern about allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of persons deprived of their liberty including minors, perpetrated by law enforcement and security personnel, mainly from the Israel Security Agency, the police and the Israeli Defense Forces, particularly during detention, transfer and interrogation, and the lack of proper accountability for torture and ill-treatment as none of the hundreds of complaints filed so far have resulted in prosecution.
Confirming the worst concerns of those fearing for the lives of Palestinian resisters, Zakaria Zubeidi, one of the four fugitives recaptured, is in an Intensive Care Unit after being tortured with electric shocks, sleep deprivation, and severe beatings that caused a broken leg. Knowing Israel's reluctance to provide medical care to Palestinian detainees, one fears the worst when one of them is hospitalized. Other recaptured resisters have been subjected to similar torture, and so far, the Israeli authorities have not allowed them to receive visits from their lawyers.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian prisoners' movement announced that 1380 detainees in Israeli prisons will begin an open-ended hunger strike starting Friday to demand an end to the collective punishment measures implemented by prison authorities following the Gilboa prison break. They also announce that new groups of prisoners will join the hunger strike next Tuesday and that there will be an escalation of protest actions as long as the situation persists.
The Committee Against Torture, in the above mentioned report recalls that Article 2(2) of the Convention provides that the prohibition of torture is absolute and non-derogable and that no exceptional circumstances may be invoked by a state party to justify acts of torture, and goes on to mention other practices of Israel that violate international law and international humanitarian law, including: omission or delay in providing legal and medical assistance to detainees; administrative detention proceedings; subjection to prolonged solitary confinement; punishment and ill-treatment of prisoners on hunger strike; excessive use of force; evidence obtained under duress; settler violence; demolition of housing; retention of the bodies of dead Palestinians.
The facts and processes cited are common knowledge and validated by reputable entities. Therefore, no person, organization or State can claim ignorance of them. Any person, organization or State which, through military or police cooperation, commercial relations or technical-scientific cooperation establishes ties with the State of Israel, namely those involving the illegal settlements, must assume that it becomes complicit in the torture, violation of the rights of political prisoners and other criminal practices of that State. Conversely, all people, organizations and states have a humanitarian duty to take all measures that can lead Israel to assume its responsibilities in respecting the rights of Palestinians, namely by respecting the international treaties and conventions to which it is a state party.
The Portuguese Parliament has been attentive to the situation of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation and has repeatedly expressed its solidarity. Just recently (April 17, 2019) it approved a "Vote of Solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails", with votes in favor by Socialist Party, Left Block, Communist Party, Green Party and People, Animals and nature Party, and votes against by Social-Democratic Party, Popular Party and one socialist MP, in which it recalled «the duties to which all states are bound in relation to international humanitarian law, namely the IV Geneva Convention and the Convention against Torture.»
MPPM regrets that the Portuguese government does not share the same concern for the respect of the human rights of Palestinians. In fact, with the exception of the just decision to withdraw from the Law Train Project, where it counted on the dubious partnership with the Israeli Security Services, the Portuguese government has seen Israel as a worthy and reliable partner from whom it buys, without reservation, military and security equipment - some of it field tested against Palestinians - or products from the illegal settlements, an instrument for the consolidation of colonial and apartheid policies.
In the present circumstances, MPPM:
- Stresses the legitimacy, under international law, of the Palestinians' resistance to occupation and repression by Israel;
- Salutes the heroic escape of the six Palestinian resisters from Gilboa prison;
- Salutes the struggle of Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons in defense of their dignity
- Reiterates its solidarity with the Palestinian people in their just struggle for the recognition of their national rights
- Salutes the demonstrators who, in Palestine and abroad, have expressed their support for Palestinian political prisoners.
MPPM urges the Portuguese government to:
- Demand from the government of Israel respect for the rights of Palestinian prisoners, in compliance with the conventions and treaties to which it is a state party, in a more general framework of respect for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people;
- Demand from the government of Israel the immediate cessation of the practice of torture and mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners;
- Demand from the government of Israel an end to the system of administrative detention;
- Denounce the agreements with Israel that have as a precondition the respect of human rights, such as the EU-Israel Association Agreement;
- Recognize the State of Palestine, in the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
September 14th 2021
The National Directorate of MPPM