Human rights organizations petition the High Court of Justice: The Israel Prison Service must publicize its regulations and procedures in Arabic, the native language of over half of the inmate population
On March 24, 2021, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, together with HaMoked and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to demand that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) translate into Arabic all of its regulations and procedures relating to the rights and duties of inmates, and make them accessible to the entire population of prisoners and detainees and also the general public, as is done in Hebrew.
The IPS regulations and procedures are only available in Hebrew, although they are vital for conducting daily life in prisons and jails in Israel – and although some 60% of the inmate population in the country are Arabic speakers, a majority of them Palestinians of the oPt.
The petitioners asserted that at stake was the right to information, which constitutes a precondition for the realization of others rights, including the inmates’ rights to access justice and to equality. Furthermore, the absence of Arabic translations of the procedures leaves Arabic-speaking inmates without access to the rules and regulations governing every aspect of daily life in prison, among them the far-reaching powers to provide or deny medical treatment, the use of force and imposition of disciplinary measures, and the permitted level of contact between the inmate and the outside world. Safeguarding inmates’ right to this information is doubly important given the fact that inmates from the oPt are illegally held inside Israel and so are all but completely isolated from their families and literally cut off from their communities and familiar sources of information. These conditions of incarceration increase inmates’ vulnerability and the risk that their rights will be violated, making transparency of rules and accessibility of information all the more crucial.
In its response to the organizations prior to the petition, the IPS claimed, among other things, that Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People (informally known as the Jewish Nation-State Law), exempts it from the obligation to translate the documents into Arabic. This, in contradiction to international conventions relating to the rights of prisoners.