Palestinian detainees: The EU must take a stand against chronic mistreatment in the Israeli prison system

In the aftermath of the October 7th attacks, the Israeli government invoked a State of Emergency within its prison system, intensifying its treatment of Palestinian detainees to levels that constitute cruel and inhumane practices, significantly impacting the physical and mental well-being of those incarcerated. 

Human rights organizations such as Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) have all highlighted the pervasive patterns of inhumane and degrading treatment endured by Palestinians in Israeli detention facilities. Reports document instances of aggressive and violent behavior by prison staff, ranging from beatings to spitting on detainees.  Abusive treatment has also included degrading practices such as subjecting Palestinians to stand in the cold of the winter, blindfolded and only in their underwear, as reported by the Head of UN Human Rights Office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. These practices might have already led to the death in custody of two individuals. Additionally, Palestinians have been systematically denied access to legal representation, communication with their families, and visits by international bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Further reports reveal the deliberate withholding of basic necessities, including power and water supply, as well as medical care, with Israeli health authorities refusing treatment to Palestinian detainees—a clear breach of their duty of care. 

In addition to this, the number of Palestinian detainees increased significantly since October 7, with an addition of 4.000 Palestinians from Gaza detained in Israeli prisons for a total of 9000 overall political prisoners, 3484 of which are under administrative detention according to Palestinian NGO for detainees’ rights Addameer. Administrative detention, wherein individuals are held without charge or trial based on suspicions of future offenses, further exacerbates the mistreatment faced by detainees, including those who have not been formally accused of any wrongdoing. 

The Israeli carceral system, both within Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories, not only flouts international human rights standards but also serves as a tool to advance Israel’s policies of occupation and apartheid. Based on compelling evidence gathered by human rights organisations, there is a strong implication that Israel is currently violating several international treaties it has ratified, including the Convention against Torture and articles 14 and 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

In response to these egregious violations, we demand that Israel ceases its practices of mistreatment, degrading and abusive treatment and torture of Palestinian prisoners, under risk of being internationally liable for its human rights violations. We also call for the European Union (EU) and its member states to publicly condemn the mistreatment of Palestinian detainees and demand an immediate cessation of violence against inmates. Additionally, Israel must be compelled to provide detainees with essential necessities, access to legal representation, and communication with their families. The EU and Member States must demand that the practice of administrative detention should be ceased, with all individuals guaranteed a fair and transparent trial. Moreover, they must also demand that international watchdogs, including the ICRC and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, should be granted access to Israeli penal facilities to monitor and safeguard the rights of detainees.