Center for the Defence of the Individual - After a two-year visit-ban: children from the oPt can again visit their parents incarcerated in Israel
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חזרה לעמוד הקודם

After a two-year visit-ban: children from the oPt can again visit their parents incarcerated in Israel

On February 14, 2022, HaMoked filed a prisoner petition to the Beersheba Court for Administrative Affairs on behalf of a resident of the oPt who had not seen his children for some 18 months, since he was detained in administrative detention. In the petition, HaMoked demanded that the inmate’s children – a five-year-old daughter and an infant son born just days after his arrest, whom he had never met – be allowed to visit their father. In addition, HaMoked requested to cancel the restriction on visits imposed at the start of the Covid 19 outbreak on Palestinian children seeking to visit their relatives incarcerated inside Israel (primarily fathers) and to allow them to visit them under the same conditions as those in force for over six months for Israeli minors.  The visits guideline, which was never made public, prohibited prison visits by unvaccinated oPt residents, and had never been revised since the start of the outbreak of the pandemic.

In the petition, HaMoked noted that during the world health crisis, with its different phases, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) made no attempt to respect the rights of the large population of “security” inmates – almost all of them Palestinians – and left them cut off from the outside world for much longer than necessary based on the shaky claim of a health-emergency situation. HaMoked stressed that as “security” inmates were not allowed to hold phone calls with their families even at regular times, without visits, they were literally completely isolated from the world.  HaMoked stressed that for about two years, the IPS had been prohibiting the entry to prison of minors from the oPt – as well as all relatives from the Gaza Strip (visits by the latter were later resumed following a petition by HaMoked and Al Mezan). This, while six months previously, in response to improvements in COVID 19 infection and morbidity rates, the IPS had begun allowing minors who were Israeli residents to regularly visit their loved ones in prison, regardless of whether the minors were vaccinated or not. However, despite HaMoked’s insistence, the IPS dismissively refused to reconsider the visits guideline, without any explanation. This, in grave disregard of the matter at stake – prolonged lack of contact between thousands of Palestinian children and their incarcerated parents held inside Israel contrary to the international law prohibition on the transfer of protected persons from the occupied territory. HaMoked emphasized that the continued blanket ban on prison visits by children caused a severe violation of the right to family life and other basic rights of the petitioner and those in a similar predicament, as well as their families, in particular their underage children. This also constituted a sweeping, arbitrary, disproportionate and unreasonable measure, which contradicted Israel’s Basic Law: Human Liberty and Dignity and international law, flouted the principle of the child’s best interest, and amounted to cruel and inhuman treatment.

On February 14, 2022, Judge Amit Cohen of the Beersheba Court for Administrative Affairs deleted outright the demand to revise the visits guideline and ruled that in order to be scheduled for a hearing, the petition must be reformulated to omit this demand which is a “general issue” without particular pertinence to the petitioner and as such, was under the jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice (HCJ). In a notice submitted the following day, HaMoked clarified that the IPS’ refusal to allow the petitioner’s children to visit him had been explained by the general guideline and nothing else, and given that the guideline was not part of the prison ordinance or the publicly publicized policy, the petition could not be formulated differently. Therefore, the Court decided to allow the IPS to submit a response.

On March 8, 2022, the IPS revised the visits guideline, whereby as of March 14, 2022, residents of the West Bank would be able to visit as usual according to the regular arrangements, without a vaccination requirement. The petition was therefore deleted with the parties consent. 

The petitioner was released from administrative detention on March 27, 2022, before a visit from his children.

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