Human rights organizations to the HCJ: the entire prison population must be vaccinated at once, according to Health Ministry priorities; this is an at-risk population, with heightened vulnerability to contagious diseases המוקד להגנת הפרט
11.01.2021
Human rights organizations to the HCJ: the entire prison population must be vaccinated at once, according to Health Ministry priorities; this is an at-risk population, with heightened vulnerability to contagious diseases
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On January 10, 2021, five Israeli human rights organizations – PHR-Israel, ACRI, Adalah, HaMoked and Rabbis for Human Rights – petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) against the decision of Minister of Public Security Ohana to prohibit the Israel Prison Service (IPS) from vaccinating prisoners at this time. The Minister’s decision contradicts the Ministry of Health guidelines and remains in place despite the express instruction of the Deputy Attorney General, who determined the Minister’s decision was unauthorized and cannot stand.

The petitioning organizations demand the IPS be ordered to vaccinate the entire prisoner population according to the prioritization set by the Ministry of Health (prisoners aged 60 and older or with preexisting medical conditions). The HCJ is also requested to void the Minister’s decision to prioritize the vaccination of prison staff, at the expense of prisoners. The petitioners stressed that the State has a legal and moral obligation to protect the inmate population from the threat of the pandemic, and that failure to vaccinate them constitutes a violation of the prisoners’ rights to health, dignity and even life.

The petition was supported by a medical opinion of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians, which concluded that “prisoners should be regarded as a captive population; in the context of the Coronavirus this is an at-risk population, both due to preexisting medical conditions and the conditions of crowding which increase the risk of illness and death”. Therefore, the expert opinion determined, “the State of Israel is ethically obligated to offer the vaccines to the prisoner population”.

The petitioners also claimed that according to HCJ case law, the Attorney General’s instructions are binding for the entire government system. Therefore, once the Attorney General determined that Minister Ohana was not authorized to act contrary to the Ministry of Health guidelines, the Minister should have followed the Attorney General’s position.
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