Security Prisoner
Security Detainee
Administrative Detainee
Total
24.5.2020

HaMoked and Al-Mezan petition the High Court of Justice: a reduction of the prisoner population is needed, and must include “security” prisoners, whose overcrowded conditions make social distancing impossible

In late March 2020, HaMoked repeatedly wrote to the authorities – independently and together with other human rights organizations – to demand reductions in the prison population in view of the coronavirus pandemic, as incarceration conditions make it impossible to follow the Ministry of Health guidelines. In its letter of March 22, 2020, HaMoked demanded that the Ministry of Public Security give immediate consideration to employing the measure of administrative early release, set in Section 68(c) of the Prisons Ordinance. This measure is used to reduce the total number of prisoners when it exceeds the threshold which the Minister sets periodically. HaMoked clarified that given the outbreak of the pandemic, the threshold of prisoners should be lowered to ensure the health of the entire prison population, which faces an increased health risk due to the considerable overcrowding in the prison system. HaMoked noted that this early administrative release measure is commonly used and its exercise does not require complex preparations, making it an efficient solution that may save lives.

In a follow up letter, HaMoked and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel demanded that the Minister of Public Security take immediate steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among Palestinian prisoners who are classified as “security” prisoners – who constitute about a third of the total prisoner population. The letter stressed that the emergency regulations published by the IPS following the pandemic are patently discriminatory because they sweepingly exclude security prisoners from the possibility of early release. This, despite the fact that security prisoners suffer from the worst conditions of overcrowding within the Israeli prison system. Therefore, the organizations reiterated their demand for the immediate and equal implementation of the administrative early release measure.

However, none of these letters received a response. Therefore, on May 21, 2020, HaMoked and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to lower the threshold of the prison population to allow implementing the administrative release measure. In their petition, the organizations clarified that not using this accessible, efficient and non-discriminatory measure constitutes a violation of the obligation of the Minister of Public Security and the IPS to protect the lives and health of all prisoners and provide them healthcare similar to that given to the entire population. It was stressed that the conditions of severe overcrowding to which security prisoners are subjected, prevents them from maintaining the universal imperative of social distancing.
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