The Situation of Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Jails


Talk by Ghassan Khader, London, 27 May 2004


Organised by Al-Awda PRRC London and SOAS Palestine Society


Chaired by Neil Gerrard MP, Chair of All-Party Committee on Refugees and Member of the Joint Parliamentary Middle East Councils Commission of Enquiry on Palestinian Refugees – Right of Return




  • Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to say thank you for your interest in the case of Palestinian prisoners and for coming to this talk, especially because I have come from Palestine and there people are suffering under the harsh policies of occupation.

  • As you know, people in Palestine continue to suffer from the occupation, the continued building of settlements, and the racist wall, and the daily killings of my people, the arrests and detention of thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Israel continues to deny international and UN resolutions and our national rights.

  • In this talk especially I will give an overview of the condition of the suffering of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails. I will give current examples of some of the prisoners including my brother Hussam.


Numbers of prisoners

  • I will start talking about prisoners – men, women, and childrens’ – situation inside the prisons. I will also talk about the families and their suffering.

  • When the Al-Aqsa Intifada started in September 2000, the numbers of people arrested increased a lot – before the Al-Aqsa intifada, there were 765 prisoners because many had been released. Now the total number of prisoners is over 7,200. All the figures I will use in my talk are from the Al-Asra Association, an NGO, and the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Detainees Affairs.

  • The total number of prisoners is 7,200 – of these, 2,300 have been charged, 3,700 are still waiting trial, and 1,200 are held under administrative detention which is renewed regularly.

  • Because of these increased numbers, the Israelis opened new prisons – some which had been closed and some were newly built – for example, Al-Nakab, which was closed and now has 1,600 Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank and Gaza, 600 of whom have not been charged and are held under administrative detention which is usually extended every 6 months. The other prisoners in Al-Nakab have been charged and some are still waiting to be charged.


Harsh conditions inside the prisons

·         If we want to talk about the condition inside Israeli prisons, it is like talking about harsh and dramatic reality for the National Movement of Prisoners. This Movement continues to struggle for the Palestinian people and their freedom, rights and independence.

·         The Israeli Prison Administration creates the most difficult and impossible conditions in the prisons. For example, prisoners’ representatives and leaders are often kept in isolation and separate from other prisoners.

·         Prisoners are held under a tight regime and routine; for example, every morning the guards come and count them, and then prisoners are given breakfast. Again in the evening they are counted. Prisoners who are not held in isolation are allowed out of their cells for only up to 2 hours each day, and sometimes this is also stopped for small reasons. 

·         There are also often raids inside the prisons when soldiers suddenly enter the cells and rooms and search and often beat the prisoners, and throw gas.

·         Prisoners are kept 25 to 30 men in each room, and the space of these rooms is 4 by 5 metres square, with the beds and toilet inside the room. This makes difficult living conditions for the prisoners in these overcrowded conditions; people cannot relax, they are under big pressure all the time and this causes tension and anger for some prisoners, and this is the aim of the Israelis. Some prisoners are also put with criminals.

·         Usually the Israeli Prison Administration moves prisoners from section to section inside the prisons, and also from one prison to another, with no reason. The purpose of this is to put the Palestinian prisoners under bad psychological conditions and high levels of anxiety that is also part of the psychological war against prisoners.

·         Prisoners also undertake individual or group strikes, including hunger strikes, to protest against being held in isolation or other bad conditions they are held in. This is the only way they can take action to demand their rights.




  • Torture of prisoners is routine with hundreds of prisoners tortured every year. This torture includes violent shaking for many minutes which makes prisoners unconscious and throw-up and is a very dangerous method which often has lasting health effects and has been the cause of death of a number of prisoners. Prisoners are also chained with hand-cuffs to small chairs by their hands and legs for many hours and even days; lack of sleep; prisoners being deprived of food and drink; prisoners are hooded with old sacks with bad smell for days at a time; prisoners are kept in small cells completely isolated from the outside world and loud music is played. All this torture takes place against what the Israelis call ‘war on terrorism’. For us this is our struggle for independence and against occupation.

  • In terms of numbers, 96% of prisoners suffered from torture; 82% were exposed to the Shabeh position; 88% were forced to stand for long periods of time; and 97% were deprived of sleep.




  • The UN Committee Against Torture has said that the use of these methods of torture by Israel breaks the Conventions and international laws which Israel signed in 1986 and in 1991 they again confirmed this. However, since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, over 80% of prisoners have been tortured.

  • My brother Hussam, for example, was under interrogation for 90 days. Many times during these 90 days he suffered from sleep deprivation, violent shaking, being chained to a small chair by his hands and feet for days. He has talked to his lawyer about the torture he suffered. After his arrest in March 2003, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) issued an appeal expressing their grave concern “for the physical and psychological integrity of Mr Khader, given the excessive use of force during his arrest, and the fact that he is being detained incommunicado, with the heightened risk that he will be subjected to ill-treatment or torture that this entails”.

  • Hussam was adopted as ‘Prisoner of the Month’ by Mandela Institute for Human Rights in Palestine in August 2003.

              Prisoner being held in Shabeh position


Medical conditions of the prisoners

  • The Israeli Prison Administration intentionally leaves prisoners often without proper medical care and treatment. Prisoners are not always checked by doctors and are often given asprin as a treatment for many things.

  • The lack of proper medical treatment means that many prisoners suffer bad health and have different diseases which spread in the overcrowded conditions. A number of prisoners have died as a result of not good medical treatment – the most recent person who died was Bashir Aweis from Balata Refugee Camp who died in Megiddo prison. He died after interrogation and was about 30 years old, with two young children.


Women Prisoners

·         During the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the Israeli army arrested tens of Palestinian women, and now there are about 90 women prisoners. Of these, 3 were arrested before the intifada and the rest since. 24 of them have been charged, and 65 are still waiting for their trials. Recently many of the women prisoners have been moved from A-Ramle Prison to Telmond Prison.

·         Women prisoners also suffer from humiliating conditions and treatment.

·         Some of the women have had children inside the prisons.


Child Prisoners

  • During the Al-Aqsa intifada, over 2,200 children were arrested, and of these, about 362 children are in prison at the moment – aged under 18.

  • Child prisoners have also suffered from torture – with up to 83% subjected to torture including thick sacks put on their head and being held in the shabeh position.

  • And 12% of child prisoners when they are released continue to suffer from physical and psychological problems.

  • The children are distributed between different prisons, 4 of which are controlled by Mukhabart, and the others are run by soldiers and the police.

  • Children as young as 12 years old can be charged under Israeli Military Orders.

  • Child prisoners are also sometimes kept with adult prisoners – which is against the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international laws and agreements.


The suffering of the prisoners’ families

  • The prisoners’ families suffering starts from when their sons and daughters are arrested. This usually happens in a very violent way with the door being blown up, and the family put on the street with children screaming and crying.

  • When their son or daughter is first arrested, families do not have any news about them, and often have to wait for at least a month to hear from the International Red Cross.

  • Since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa intifada, for the first few years there were no family visits. Recently this is now allowed to some families from cities like Ramallah. But families from Nablus – which are the highest number of prisoners – visits are still not allowed. The families have made an association and campaign for visits and for their sons and daughter’s rights.

  • Families who can visit the prisoners have to travel for hours to visit each month, and can visit for about 45 minutes behind dark glass screens. And visits are often cancelled because of curfews and closure.

  • Prisoners have also gone on strike because of the conditions of family visits – for example, they cannot touch their children and cannot even see their families clearly because of the dark glass.


Hussam Khader


  • Hussam is a member of the PLC and the Chair of the Committee for the Defence of Palestinian Refugee Rights. He was arrested on 17 March 2003 and has been detained since then in isolated conditions. Contrary to international law, Hussam is being held illegal inside Israel, and not the Occupied Territories. He was held for nearly one year in solitary confinement after a long period of 90 days interrogation. Full details of Hussam’s case are on the website:

  • As an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hussam Khader, like Marwan Barghouti, should have immunity from arrest and detention, as outlined in the Agreements between the PLO and the Israel government. However, the Israeli government does not respect these agreements, especially when it relates to Palestinian prisoners and the Fourth Geneva Convention. Hussam is known for his commitment to the right of return for Palestinian refugees, to human rights, as well as his statements in the fight against corruption.

  • A refugee himself, Hussam Khader is an outspoken advocate for refugee rights and founder of the Committee for the Defence of the Palestinian Refugee Rights, which insists on the right of return for Palestinian refugees to be included in any peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians.

  • Hussam was the first to be forced out of his country because of his role as a leader during the first Intifada when he was exiled on January 13th, 1988. At 2 in the morning all the neighbouring houses and the whole area were surrounded by the Israeli army. At 2.45am they blew up the front door without warning and immediately opened fire. There were four children living in the house, aged eleven, eight and five years old, as well as nine months old. The soldiers ordered all of the family out of the house, and arrested Hussam.

  • In May 2004, his trial was delayed for the 6th time, as the main prosecution witness withdrew evidence, he said, was obtained under torture. Hussam’s next Court hearing has been set for 29 June 2004.  Hussam has been subjected to physical and psychological torture, including sleep deprivation, interrogation for over 90 days, and being held in solitary confinement for 1 year. During this period, he has not had regular access to his lawyer, nor to family visits, and, against international law, is being held inside Israel and not the Occupied Territories. Hussam has been moved to 7 different prisons inside Israel, and until a hunger strike for 9 days in March 2004 to protest against his conditions of detention, he had been held in solitary confinement for a year.

  • In March 2004, the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Affairs, and Fateh’s leadership all issued statements condemning the detention of the Palestinian parliament members, Hussam Khader and Marwan Barghouti (

  • Also in October 2003, the Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union adopted a resolution expressing its deep concern about Hussam Khader’s arrest, his conditions of detention and the lack of evidence supplied to his lawyers (see



  • Many Human Rights organisations have for many years documented the human rights abuses and torture of Palestinian prisoners. In its Annual Report last year, 2003, Amnesty International expressed its concern about Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, especially the more that 3,800 Palestinian prisoners who were tried before military courts in trials – like Hussam is. According to Amnesty International, these did not meet international standards, and that ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees was widespread.

  • In a recent statement released from prison, Hussam Khader called upon Palestinians and the world at large to pressure Israel to meet their responsibilities and treat Palestinian prisoners with the dignity and respect they deserve.

  • We Palestinians will continue to fight and to struggle for our rights and our dignity. Despite all the things that have happened and continue to happen – for example, the demolitions, the killings, the invasions and the occupation - we do not feel tired.


Finally, thank you for coming and thank you for your interest.


Ghassan Khader is a founding member of the Popular Committee in Solidarity with

PLC member Hussam Khader and Palestinian Prisoners ( He is also Co-ordinator of the Committee Representing Relatives of Palestinian Prisoners and Public Relations Co-ordinator of the Committee for the Defence of Palestinian Refugee Rights, Palestine.








1.      Sign the petition on Hussam’s website –


2.      Write to your MP or MEP and ask them to write to the Foreign Secretary and ask if the British Government, under its obligations as a signatory of the 4th Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (all of which Israel is also signatory to) can raise the following issues with the Israeli Government:


·         The conditions of detention of Hussam Khader – his detention inside Israel and not the Occupied Territories

·         To demand an investigation into the allegations of torture that he has suffered;

·         His defence team’s access to information on the evidence again him;

·         To ensure that Hussam and other political prisoners have full access to lawyers, heath services and family visits. Hussam Khader suffers from severe spinal problems and has not received adequate health treatment for this;

·         His right – and the rights of other political prisoners - to judicial guarantees ensuring a fair trial – especially given that Hussam is being tried under the military courts system in Israel.


3.      Write to the following people about Hussam’s case, and the conditions of all Palestinian political prisoners:


Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister:;

Yosef Lapid, Minister of Justice:

Ambassador Yaakov Levy:


4.      Write to the media – Spread the word – speak to your local media and political representatives about the over 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners and the illegality of Hussam’s imprisonment.


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