Women imprisoned – Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

By Guest Post • Mar 10th, 2010 at 16:13 •

8 March 2010

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association marks International Women’s Day 2010 by honoring, commemorating and saluting Palestinian women political prisoners and detainees in their steadfast resistance against Israeli colonial occupation and struggle towards securing the right of Palestinians to self-determination.

An estimated 10,000 Palestinian women have been arrested and detained since 1967 under Israeli military orders, which govern nearly every aspect of life in the occupied Palestinian territory today, including more than 750 Palestinian women arrested by Israel between the years 2000-2009. While the call to end violence and arbitrary detention against women around the world should take place 365 days a year, Addameer would like to take a moment today to reflect upon and recognize the plight of Palestinian women and their unique experiences of colonial violence within Israel’s prison system and unlawful regime of colonial occupation.

As of March 2010, there remain 34 Palestinian women held in Israel’s prisons and detention centers, including three women held under administrative detention, eight women held pending trial and 23 women serving a sentence of imprisonment, of whom five are serving life (including multiple life) sentences. Both of the prisons that hold the majority of Palestinian female detainees, HaSharon and Damon Prisons, are located outside the 1967 occupied territory, in direct contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which provides that, as an Occupying Power, Israel must detain residents of the occupied territory in prisons inside the occupied territory. The practical consequence of this unlawful transfer is that many prisoners have difficulty meeting with their Palestinian defense counsel and do not receive family visits as their attorneys and relatives are most often denied permits on “security grounds” not disclosed to them.

In addition, both HaSharon and Damon Prisons lack a gender-sensitive approach and, as such, female prisoners detained there suffer from harsh imprisonment conditions and interlocking systems of oppression which are enacted through medical negligence, denial of education, denial of family visits, solitary confinement, and overcrowded cells. A majority of these cells are infested with insects, dirty, and lack adequate ventilation and natural light. Personal health and hygiene needs are rarely addressed by the Israeli Prison Service, even in cases involving the detention of pregnant female detainees.
Other forms of abuse perpetrated against Palestinian women detainees and prisoners include numerous forms of sexual harassment, namely: threats of rape (in some cases threats of rape are made towards the detainee’s family members), sexually degrading insults, and invasive body/strip searches used as a method of punishment. These occurrences are a fundamental part of Palestinian women’s prison experiences and should be understood as a common and systematic form of racial and gendered State violence.

Moreover, research has shown that Israel’s prison authorities use these forms of sexual harassment to deliberately exploit Palestinian women’s fears by playing on patriarchal norms as well as gender stereotypes within particular customs of Palestinian society. Accordingly, occurrences of sexual harassment are a sensitive issue for Palestinian women and their families; this vulnerability makes these measures especially effective tools for interrogators, and is compounded by the lack of available post-assault resources.

Addameer submits that Israel’s routine practice of strip searching female prisoners and detainees as a method of punishment violates both international human rights and humanitarian law, including the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which stipulates in Article 7 that: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…”. Similarly, Article 3(1)(c) of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) forbids“outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment”.

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association condemns the use of all measures of abuse Israeli actors use against female prisoners and detainees, and calls for the immediate release of all Palestinian political prisoners held unlawfully outside the occupied Palestinian territory. Addameer further calls for an immediate stop to Israel’s practices of sexual violence, including strip searches and invasive body searches, shackling of pregnant women during labor, and use of threats and/or other forms of sexual assault. In addition, Israeli authorities, in particular the Prison Service, must meet their obligations under the UN Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and ensure that all subjects under Israeli jurisdiction are granted their full rights to formal education for girls under the age of 18, (including access to books and study materials inside the prisons), nutritional diet programs, especially for pregnant detainees, health care including specialized gynecological services, hospital/doctor visits when required, dental care, and open family visits (especially for mothers of minors). Of particular importance, Addameer demands that female prisoners and detainees be provided unhindered access to religious, cultural and gender sensitive social services, including trained Arabic-speaking women specialist in the field of social work, psychology and counseling. It is important to note that these rights and services must be administered only by Palestinians; as such, the Israeli authorities and the Israel Prison Service must grant full, unhindered access to Palestinian programs and service providers in this regard.

On International Women's Day 2010, Addameer stands in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners and detainees who remain strong in their resistance against Israel’s colonial occupation regime, and asks the international community for its continued support and solidarity all year round.

For more information on female prisoners, please visit: www.addameer.info or contact:

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
PO Box 17338, Jerusalem
Tel: +972 (0)2 296 0446
Fax: +972 (0)2 296 0447
Email: info@addameer.ps

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977


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