Center for the Defence of the Individual - HaMoked in a motion to appeal to the Supreme Court: The Israel Prison Service unreasonably prevents a blind prisoner from accessing audiobooks
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HaMoked in a motion to appeal to the Supreme Court: The Israel Prison Service unreasonably prevents a blind prisoner from accessing audiobooks

On May 31, 2023, HaMoked submitted to the Supreme Court a motion to appeal the May 1, 2023 judgment of the Beersheba District Court, which rejected a blind Palestinian prisoner’s petition to receive audiobooks necessary for him to enjoy the right to culture as other prisoners do.

HaMoked argued that in rejecting the petition of the prisoner, the lower instance erred in ruling that there is a general security concern that justifies banning the introduction of audiobook CDs into prison, based on nothing but the fact that the applicant is classified as a security prisoner. HaMoked further argued that the Court erred in finding that there was no flaw in the IPS’ discretion although it had not given weight to the circumstances of the applicant and the severe harm to his basic rights.  HaMoked asserted that the IPS thus ignored its obligation to employ its discretionary power and consider facilitating the needs of the disabled prisoner. HaMoked added that the Court also erred in accepting the IPS’ claim that examining the CDs would impose an unreasonable organizational burden, despite the fact that the Prison Ordinance allows bringing into prison CDs with pictures of family occasions once a year. HaMoked maintained that the refusal in this case was an unreasonable and disproportionate decision, and was contradictory to the Limitations clause in Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. HaMoked claimed that the IPS should allocate resources to address the purported security concern by listening to the CDs before giving them to the applicant. 

HaMoked stated that at the heart of this request stands the right to cultural life, which is part of the right to a life of dignity. HaMoked stressed that the matter in hand has broad repercussions for all inmates who have disabilities, their rights to dignity, personal autonomy and equality, and the issue of adapting prison conditions to such inmates’ needs. As to the IPS’ preposterous claim that the refusal stemmed from the desire to maintain equality between the prisoners, HaMoked stressed that the applicant was the one suffering from discrimination compared to other prisoners, and that basic accommodations had not been made for his benefit as required under Israel’s Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law.

It should be noted that at the IPS’ request, following its claim that it could not locate audiobooks in Arabic, HaMoked suggested options for obtaining such books: via an account on a dedicated Arabic audiobooks website; CDs with recordings made by private individuals or CDs from a dedicated store in Ramallah in the West Bank, which his family could bring on family visits. The IPS rejected all these options – and its position was adopted by the Court – not only due to an alleged security risk, but also on the claim that some of these options would entail a violation of copyright.  In its request to appeal, HaMoked noted that this latter claim was also baseless, in view of the fact that under the Israeli Copyright Act it is permissible to make use of an artwork that is not adequately accessible to a person because of their disability, provided that this is done exclusively for their personal use.

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