Following HaMoked petition: Palestinian minors in Israeli prisons can talk with their families over the telephone for ten minutes once every two weeks so long as the coronavirus emergency situation continues
On March 26, 2020, HaMoked – together with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture, Physicians for Human Rights, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Parents Against Child Detention – petitioned the High Court of Justice
to demand that inmates classified as security inmates, and particularly those among them who are minors, be allowed to maintain family contact with their families at this time via the telephone. This, following the complete ban on prison visits, imposed under the recent emergency regulations (the prevention of entry of visitors and lawyers to prisons and detention facilities), established due to the coronavirus pandemic. The petition stresses that the complete isolation of security prisoners in the various incarceration facilities gives rise to concerns that their rights might be violated without their being able to tell anyone or seek legal assistance in the matter.
HaMoked emphasized the special vulnerability, needs and rights of Palestinian minors classified as security inmates (some 200 boys aged 14-17 as of early March 2020). The petition clarified that incarceration in circumstances of uncertainty and isolation is especially traumatic for minors, making telephone contact between minors and their parents particularly vital.
In its April 1 response to the petition, the state announced its decision to allow “juvenile security prisoners and detainees who are not held in Damun prison [where a telephone-contact pilot test is being run] to have one telephone call with a first degree relative during the next two weeks…”. This, under the temporary order issued that day, regarding “supervised telephone conversations for minors during times of emergency”, which establishes that “a telephone call as stated will be allowed once every two weeks, to a first degree family member… the call will be held in the presence of a warden who speaks the prisoner’s language, via the speaker, and will last for up to ten minutes”. The state refused to allow telephone calls for adult inmates, stressing that these are allowed only in emergencies.
At the end of the hearing, held on April 2, 2020, the court recorded in its decision the state’s clarifications, whereby, telephone conversations would be arranged for minors as a matter of regular procedure, without need for special requests. Additionally, it was clarified that only if exceptional concrete security reasons exist, would it be possible to deny a minor’s right to call their family. As to adult inmates, the justices stressed that insofar as the emergency situation continues, the IPS would have to cope with the required logistics in order to allow adults to maintain telephone contact with their families.
The petition was heard jointly with a related petition filed by Adalah, concerning the denial of security inmates’ right to counsel. A satisfactory arrangement has not yet been achieved on this matter, and so both petitions are still pending.