Friday, July 20, 2007
July 20, 2007
People may have heard that today 255 Palestinian prisoners were released by Israel as part of their strategy of support for Palestinian President Abbas. From our balcony we saw a parade of cars, buses and taxis making its round in celebration, Palestinian flags waving high. Obviously a happy day for 255 people, and their families and friends.
But I was left all day thinking about the people who weren't included in the political game, who sat in cells, hopeless. Whose families can't visit them. I thought about the one prisoner, Mahmoud Ahmad Awad, 21 years old, who was told at four this morning that he would not be released-the Israeli authorities had changed their mind. (www.maannews.net).
Last week we went to visit the new Abu Jihad Center for Prison Studies. Besides being a beautiful museum, it held powerful records. It told stories of women forced to give birth in prison, stories of children prisoners, stories of people organizing, writing letters and entire books smuggled out through hand-made capsules.
Mostly it told the stories of the tool of prisons within occupation-of prisons as a tool of oppression-a story I also heard in Nicaragua, in Argentina, and within some communities in the United States. In Palestine, 20% of the total population-40% of men-have been detained by Israeli forces.(PalestineMonitor.org)
Al Jazeera reports today that there are still 9,850 Palestinian people in Israeli jails. This includes 40 members of the Palestinain Legistlative Council. It also includes 105 women and 359 children. Many people are taken in the middle of the night, their houses ransaked and their families victimized as well as the person by the arrest.
The Palestinian Monitor reports that Palestinian children are tried as adults after the age of 14. Between ages 12-14, children can be held for as long as six months. A prisoners' support group in Palestine, Addameer, notes that over 2500 children have been arrested since 2000. They write that "in most cases, families are not informed of their arrest...as a result, it often takes some time before a child detainee is located and the family informed of his/her location".
What are the community impacts of prisons on children? A 2006 study done with 10th and 11th graders in the Ramallah district found that 25% of these Palestinian children had had their houses searched in the preceding 13 months. 17% had been detained or arrested-this number was 34% for males and 13% for females. 37% of the children had seen a friend or neighbor get arrested. 4.8% of these children reported that they had been tortured-8.8% of males and 1.1% of females. (N=3415). (Giacaman, R. et al, 2006, in The European Journal of Public Health.) This study is a small, powerful snapshot of conditions faced by youth around the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Interrogation of Palestinian people can last for 180 days, 90 of which can be without access to a lawyer. Addameer recently raised awareness about the case of Yaser Abd Eirahman Khalayleh, 41 years old, from Ramallah, who was held without charge or trial for a year and a half.
The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled in 1999 that torture is not forbidden, but "may be used in the "necessity of defense" and in situations where a detainee is deemed a 'ticking bomb'." http://www.addameer.org/detention/torture.html
90% of torture metohods include what is called the "shabh", where the person's legs are tied to a stool, hands are tied behind his back and a bag covers his head-sometimes for over 48 hours.
Today, as we sit in our calm apartment, I feel a mix of happiness for those released and mournfulness for those people and families who sit waiting.
For more information about prisons:
http://www.ppsmo.org/english.html and http://www.addameer.org/index_eng.html.