Israel/OPT
09.07.09
Urgent Interventions

Arbitrary use of administrative detention of two Palestinian women_Harsh detention conditions, including lack of adequate gender-specific medical care

Case ISR 090709/ ISR 090709.VAW
URGENT CAMPAIGNS/ VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Arbitrary use of administrative detention of two Palestinian women/ Ill-treatment/ Harsh detention conditions, including lack of adequate gender-specific medical care

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requests your URGENT intervention in the following situations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by a reliable source about the administrative detention of Ms. Majeda Fidda, 48 years old, and Ms. Siham Al-Heh, 30 years old, as well as of the subsequent harsh conditions of detention at Hasharon Prison, one of Israel’s largest prison facilities.

According to the information received, on 6 August 2008, around 12 am, Israeli soldiers burst into Ms. Majeda Fidda's home and arrested her. Ms. Majeda Fidda, who is an elected member of Nablus Municipal Council, was that night transferred to three different locations and endured a two-hour long interrogation. A list of charges was issued against her including her membership of the Change and Reform party which she joined in 2005 when she was elected to the Council. According to the same information, on 8 December 2008, Ms. Majeda Fidda was acquitted of all charges but instead of releasing her she was placed in administrative detention, which was renewed for another four months on 29 June 2009.

Since her detention, Ms. Fidda has only been able to see her sister and her health has deteriorated due to the harsh prison conditions, including overcrowding, humidity, lack of natural sunlight, adequate ventilation and poor hygiene standards.

This is not the first time that Ms. Majeda Fidda has been detained by the Israeli Army. In 2005 she was placed under administrative detention from 3 March to 2 September 2005.

Furthermore, according to the same information, on 26 March 2009 around 1:30 a.m. Ms. Siham Al-Heh, a social worker from Sourif in Hebron, was also detained by Israeli soldiers. It is alleged that the soldiers burst into her house, destroyed her property and confiscated personal objects including identity documents of the family. It is also alleged that during her interrogation, she was threatened with administrative detention. Like Ms. Fidda, Ms. Al-Heh has not been able to see her family and she has also complained about the harsh prison conditions. Ms. Al-Heh was due to be released on 25 June 2009 but, like Ms. Fidda, her administrative detention was extended for another 3 months.

Background Information

Israel has been holding hundreds of persons from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in administrative detention. In the occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli army carries out administrative detention on the basis of Military Order 1226, which empowers military commanders to detain an individual for up to six months if they have “reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the area or public security require the detention.” On or just before the expiry date, the detention order is also frequently renewed and this process can be continued indefinitely.

Administrative detention deprives detainees of basic safeguards, including the right to challenge the evidence which is the basis for the detention, warrants are not required, and the detainee may be held in incommunicado detention for an extended period, subject to renewal.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture has already expressed concern that administrative detention does not conform with article 16 of the Convention[1]. This type of indefinite administrative detention, in manifestly unfair proceedings, can amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

On the issue of prison conditions that incarcerated Palestinian women face, including in Hasharon Prison, OMCT and PCATI in a 2005 alternative country report to the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), already highlighted that “female Palestinian detainees and prisoners are often held in poor conditions of detention that are in contravention of the standards set in Israeli law, international law and the UN Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners”. Furthermore, in a study conducted by Addameer[2], it was found that lack of specialized gender sensitive care continues to be a problem for detainees in Hasharon prison and other places in the Occupied Territories. Female detainees not only are in need of regular gynaecological consultations but also of being seen by female providers. The situation in Hasharon prison also goes against the recommendations made in 2008 by UNDOC which stated that “specialists in women’s healthcare should be available for ongoing consultations, with arrangements in place for regular visits by gynaecologists[3].”

The International Secretariat of OMCT expresses its deep concern about the situation of Ms. Majeda Fidda and Ms. Siham Al-Heh and, in particular, the fact that the procedure under which their administrative detention has been ordered and prolonged, as well as their detention conditions, do not meet international human rights standards, and hence amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in Israel urging them to:

  1. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Majeda Fidda and Ms. Siham Al-Heh;
  2. Guarantee immediate and unconditional access to their families and adequate medical care, including the independent specialized, gender-specific care, that they may require;
  3. Order their immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges that are consistent with international law and standards, or, if such charges exist, bring them promptly before an impartial, independent, competent and fair tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times;
  4. Guarantee that adequate compensation is awarded to Ms. Majeda Fidda and Ms. Siham Al-Heh;
  5. Ensure the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.

Addresses

  • Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, 3, Kaplan Street, PO Box 187, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem, Israel, Fax: +972- 2-651 2631, Email: pm_eng@pmo.gov.il
  • Mr Menachem Mazuz, Attorney General, Fax: + 972 2 627 4481; + 972 2 628 5438; +972 2 530 3367
  • Brigadier General Avihai Mandelblit, Military Judge Advocate General, 6 David Elazar Street, Hakirya, Tel Aviv, Israel, Fax: +972 3 608 0366, +972 3 569 4526, Email: arbel@mail.idf.il, avimn@.idf.gov.il
  • Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations Office and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, Avenue de la Paix 1-3, 1202 Geneva, Fax: +41 22 716 05 55, Email: mission-israel@geneva.mfa.gov.il

Please also write to the embassies of Israel in your respective country.

Geneva, 9 July 2009

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

[1] CAT/C/ISR/CO/4, para 17

[2] In Need of Protection. Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Detention. http://www.aseerat.ps/files

[3] UNODC (2008) Handbook for Prison Managers and Policymakers on Women and Imprisonment. Criminal Justice Series, United Nations, New York, 2008, p.51

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