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New arrangement for family visits in prison: Following a series of petitions by HaMoked, a new arrangement was made for residents from the Occupied Territories who were refused permission for “security reasons” to visit their loved ones in prisons in the West Bank and in Israel. The military systematically ignored, over a long period of time, family requests’ to visit. From now on, some of those persons who were refused entry into Israel will be able to visit in the prisons

The State’s refusal to permit family visits in prisons; HaMoked’s petitions objecting to the State’s action
In a series of petitions, HaMoked requested the High Court of Justice to direct the commander of army forces in the West Bank to permit residents of the Occupied Territories to visit their loved ones being held in prisons in the West Bank and in Israel, or to state in writing his reason for not permitting the visit. Forty-three cases were involved, in which HaMoked submitted requests to the authorities on behalf of parents, spouses, and siblings of detainees and prisoners who had been denied permission to visit in the prisons, and the requests had gone unanswered for a year or more. From these forty-three cases, eleven petitions were filed with the HCJ.

From the petition filed by HaMoked, HCJ 7384/04, Abdallah et al. v. Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank:

"This systematic failure reflects the Respondent’s disgraceful attitude toward the fundamental rights of the prisoners and their families to contact and visits. The treatment of prisoners is one of the supreme tests of a society. In our case, the Respondent has the dual duty to ensure the prisoners’ rights: first, whereas they are in his custody, he is responsible for all their human needs; second, whereas they are protected persons under international humanitarian law, he has the duty to ensure their welfare. The Respondent does not stand this fundamental test, as is apparent in the case of contact between the prisoners and their relatives: families from entire areas are prevented from visiting; entire families are not allowed to see their loved ones; when visits do occur, they are held in conditions that make meaningful, humane, and basic contact impossible. The Respondent does not allow the prisoners vacation, and does not permit them to contact their relatives by telephone. As a result, persons remain behind bars for years without any contact with their closest relatives…"

To download the petition, click here

Developments following the filing of the petitions
After HaMoked filed the petitions, the State Attorney's Office notified HaMoked, on 5 September 2004, that all family members who had previously objected to denial of their request to visit their loved ones in detention would be provided visiting permits. The permits would be valid for one visit and remain in effect for only twenty-one days from the day of issuance. The arrangement did not apply to cases in which the State claimed there were security reasons to deny the visit.

The solution was clearly temporary and limited – as mentioned, it only applied to persons who submitted objections prior to the date of the State Attorney's Office’s letter. The arrangement did not provide a permanent solution for the petitioners’ problem, or for the problem of the many other Palestinians in a similar situation.

Therefore, HaMoked continued to seek a comprehensive solution. Recently, the State Attorney's Office announced a new arrangement, which will apply to all relatives of prisoners whom the state refused permission to enter Israel on “security grounds.”

The arrangement is to operate in the following way. Applicants file a request for an entry permit to visit relatives in prison. The request is submitted to the Civil Administration through the Red Cross. It is then forwarded to the General Security Service, which decides if, despite the general prohibition that the state contends applies vis-a-vis the particular relatives, their entry can be allowed in transportation provided by the Red Cross. If permission is allowed in this framework, the District Coordinating Office arranges the permit to enter Israel solely for the purpose of making the visit. The permit is valid for 45 days and for one visit only. When the relatives reach the prison, the prison officials stamp the permit, indicating the date of the visit. A permit holder who wants to visit his loved one in prison again has to submit a new request in the same manner, immediately following the visit or when the permit expires. The old permit, whether used or expired, is attached to the new request. The request is forwarded to the GSS [later known as ISA], and the handling of the request continues in the same manner as previously.

The arrangement is scheduled to begin at the end of November 2004. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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