HaMoked in an urgent letter to the Israel Prison Service: stop the prolonged blanket ban on family visits from the oPt to Palestinian “security prisoners” המוקד להגנת הפרט
09.06.2021
HaMoked in an urgent letter to the Israel Prison Service: stop the prolonged blanket ban on family visits from the oPt to Palestinian “security prisoners”
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Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, some 4,000 Palestinian residents of the oPt who are held in prisons inside Israel and classified as “security” inmates, have been kept almost entirely without contact to the outside world, including their families, in severe violation of their right to family life. Family visits from Gaza have been suspended since the start of the world health crisis, and those from the West Bank have been suspended since December 2020 and were conducted only partially beforehand, in the intervals between the lockdowns imposed in Israel. So long as visits are unavailable, minors held as “security” inmates are ostensibly allowed a 10-minute-long telephone call to their families once every two weeks. Whereas adults classified as “security” inmates were only allowed to make a single phone call during this year’s month of Ramadan and Ramadan in 2020.

On June 2021 HaMoked wrote to the Israel Prison Service (IPS) to demand the resumption of family visits to the thousands of Palestinian “security” inmates from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. HaMoked noted that the ban was a direct outcome of the fact that Israel had been incarcerating Palestinian inmates inside its territory, contrary to the international law prohibition on the transfer of protected persons outside their country. The ban was also a breach of Israel’s undertaking before the High Court of Justice (HCJ 2690/09) to allow family visits as part of the inmates’ right to family life. HaMoked also mentioned that in the framework of the petition in which the Ramadan phone calls were approved, the HCJ clarified that the prison authorities must continue to prepare for decision-making ahead of time, according to the changing circumstances, also with regards to the resumption of visits.

HaMoked added that the incidence of Covid-19 significantly declined in both Israel and the West Bank, as well as in the Gaza Strip. This, coupled with the fact that many family members had already contracted Covid-19 or received the vaccine, and that most of the inmate population was vaccinated, meant there was no reason to continue the sweeping ban on visits. The ban must be replaced by proportionate measures, similar to those implemented with regards to people seeking to enter Israel or go abroad, HaMoked wrote.

HaMoked also noted that it was unclear what the source of authority was for continuing the ban, given that the March 2020 Emergency Regulations (Prevention of Entry of Visitors and Lawyers to Prisons and Detention Facilities) expired back in June 2020.

* Prison visits by vaccinated or recovered family members were resumed on July 6, 2021. An IPS' response to this effect arrived two days later.
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