AL-HAQ PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
27 January 2005
Al-Haq reports with alarm Israels insufficient safety standards in its detention centres where it holds thousands of Palestinian prisoners. In the past 10 days, there has been one death and several injuries amongst the large population of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons due to fires.
This morning at 6:00 a.m., 26-year-old prisoner Rasem Ghneimat from Kofr Malek died as a result of his injuries after a fire broke out in his tent. Three other prisoners at Magido Prison in the north of Israel were injured: Ala Al-Masri, Ayman Alawi, and Ayman Abu Arab. Though the prisoners began shouting as soon as they became aware of the fire, prison authorities did not intervene, even to use a fire extinguisher, until 15-20 minutes after Ghneimat had died.
This entirely preventable death comes ten days after an electrical fire broke out in the Ansar III Prison (Ketziot) in the Naqab, injuring 16 prisoners. All the tents inside the facility were damaged, as were all of the prisoners personal belongings. Previous to the accident, prisoners alerted the authorities to the exposed wiring, and asked that the electrical network be improved, and that the prisoners be able to control the electrical switches. However, their requests were denied. Furthermore, prisoners had warned the authorities that a new wall constructed around the prisoners tents might threaten their safety in the event of an emergency. Indeed, the wall hindered firefighters ability to put out the fire.
These incidents are evidence of Israels violation of Article 85 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which stipulates:
The Detaining Power is bound to take all necessary and possible measures to ensure that protected persons shall, from the outset of their internment, be accommodated in buildings or quarters which afford every possible safeguard as regards hygiene and health .
In addition, human rights standards such as the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons Under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment and the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, set forth unambiguous basic standards regarding the rights of individuals deprived of their liberty, which include taking every measure to ensure their basic safety. Indeed, one of the primary provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that all individuals who are deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for their dignity.
Al-Haq calls upon the Israeli authorities to formally investigate these safety breaches, and take all necessary measures to prevent future deaths and injuries related to safety violations from occurring. Israel must uphold its obligations under international law to ensure the minimum standards of its prisoners safety. Al-Haq also encourages international organisations concerned with prisoners rights to send observers to Israeli prisons, in order to witness the substandard conditions in which thousands of Palestinian prisoners are currently being held.
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