HaMoked to HCJ: Israel must lift the sweeping restriction on the number of prison visits sons and brothers of "security" prisoners may make
The right to family visits in prisons is a basic right of both the prisoners and their family members. It stems from the perception of the human being as a social creature who lives as part of a family and a community. This right is enshrined in a number of Israeli and international legal sources.
Israel holds most prisoners who are residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in prisons that are located within its own territory. This is a violation of international law which prohibits transferring inmates from occupied territories to the territory of the occupying power. Holding Palestinian prisoners inside Israel forces their relatives to request Israeli entry permits from the army in order to visit their loved ones in prison. Israel's policy with respect to the issuance of such permits includes stringent restrictions and limiting criteria.
Beginning in 2000 and for three years after the second intifada broke out, Israel put a moratorium on family visits by relatives from the OPT with what it dubs "security prisoners", whether the prisoners were held in Israel or the West Bank. In March 2003, following legal action taken by HaMoked, family visits were gradually renewed. The narrow criteria Israel put in place allow only first degree relatives of prisoners to visit - spouses, children, parents, grandparents and siblings.
Israel imposes sweeping restrictions on the sons and brothers of prisoners specifically. Sons between the ages of 16 and 35 may visit their imprisoned father only twice a year
. Brothers in the same age group may visit an incarcerated sibling only once a year
. Israel indiscriminately imposes this restriction on all sons and brothers without examining the applicants individually.
HaMoked contacted the army several times in 2011 and 2012, both in individual cases and with a general demand to lift this restriction. On June 6, 2013, after no pertinent answer had been provided, HaMoked filed a petition
on behalf of eight individuals, all sons and brothers of prisoners. In the petition, HaMoked argued that the severe and arbitrary restriction the army imposes on sons and brothers of prisoners who wish to visit their loved ones in prison constitutes a severe violation of their own and the prisoners' fundamental right to family life. This is a collective, disproportionate violation, which does not serve a proper purpose.
The hearing of the petition is scheduled for April 2014 (!).