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HaMoked in HCJ petition to instruct the IPS to improve holding conditions at the Shikma prison interrogation wing: “the time has come for the Respondent to take matters into its hand and conduct a thorough renovation of the wing instead of finding patchwork solutions.”

On September 21, 2015, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice to instruct the Israel Prison Service (IPS) to urgently improve holding conditions in the Shikma prison ISA interrogation wing. HaMoked stressed that the appalling conditions in the facility make it impossible to maintain the health and dignity of the detainees, as required by Israeli and international law.

On January 19, 2016, the state submitted its response to the petition, asking the court to dismiss it since “there is an alternative remedy in the form of a prisoner petition concerning holding conditions.” The IPS also claimed that the affidavits HaMoked collected from detainees who had been interrogated in the wing between August 2013 and May 2014 had “substantive flaws.” This statement was based on alleged incongruencies between the dates noted on the affidavits given to a lawyer working on behalf of HaMoked and the IPS’ records of lawyer visits at the prison.

Referring to the deficiencies in holding conditions in the facility raised by HaMoked in the petition, the IPS argued that “As a rule, holding conditions in the facility comply with legal requirements.” The IPS did, however, note that improvements in cell lighting, which is on 24 hours a day, are being considered, as well as the placement of partitions inside the cells, to separate the cesspit serving as a toilet in them. The IPS added that the hot water supply to the cell showers has been improved, and that a decision was made to air out the mattresses used by detainees once a month.

On February 4, 2016, HaMoked responded sharply to the claims made by the IPS, rejecting its reasons for in limine dismissal of the petition. HaMoked noted that the suggestion that detainees could file individual petitions regarding holding conditions was insubstantial as they are residents of the OPT who are brought into the facility for ISA interrogations, and are held there for relatively short durations, during which they are cut off from the outside world and subjected to significant mental and physical pressure. The possibility that detainees would in fact file petitions at that point is non-existent.

With respect to the IPS’ outrageous allegation that the petition is based on falsified affidavits, HaMoked noted that IPS records to not provide sufficient cause for making such a serious allegation, particularly given HaMoked’s experience that the IPS visitor records have been found to be partial, erroneous and unreliable. HaMoked stressed that the undignified allegation would have been better left unsaid.

HaMoked also addressed inspection reports which were appended to the IPS’ response and revealed numerous incongruencies and inaccuracies in the idyllic picture the IPS tried to paint with respect to holding conditions, including the size of the cells and sanitary and personal hygiene conditions in them which fail to meet legal standards. HaMoked noted that these are official reports based on arranged inspection visits and led by IPS and ISA personnel, making it very unlikely that the inspectors see things as they really are.

HaMoked asked the court to establish a clear timeframe for completion of improvements the IPS must make in the Shikma prison, including dimming lights during the night, partitioning off the squat toilets and resolving hygiene and sanitation issues. HaMoked asked the court to instruct the IPS to renovate the entire interrogation wing and make sure that no detainees are held there pending completion of the renovations. The most recent ministry of justice inspection report indicates that the facility had not been renovated since it was built in the early 1990s.

On February 10, 2016, a High Court justice decided the petition would be heard by the court. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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