What do the Palestinian Prisoners Want? What are they struggling for?

Media outlets started reporting on the Palestinian prisoners’ massive hunger strike with an enormous delay, but they rarely if ever explain the reasons for it and the prisoners’ demands. The strike has two main demands: and end to administrative detentions, and prison conditions befitting human dignity. Right now, two hunger striking prisoners are near death after having fasted for over 75 days—Bilal Diab and Tha’er Halahleh.

An End to Administrative Detention

  • According to reports, 308 Palestinians are currently imprisoned under administrative detention
  • Administrative detention allows military officers to detain people without trial and without the right to defend themselves appropriately. The prisoner is not imprisoned because of a violation they have committed (according to the norm that no person should be punished without having committed a crime) – but rather undergoes a "preventative arrest," which is supposedly based on the likelihood of his committing some future violation.
  • Judicial review of such detentions is laughable, given that the prisoners and their representatives have no right to examine the evidence against them. The administrative detainee is not given the reasons for their arrest and he or she have no idea what crime they are suspected of planning to commit. The detainee is brought before the judge who is supposed to approve the detention order, despite the fact that most of the prosecution’s evidence remains classified.
  • It is possible to renew the administrative detention every six months; this means that it is possible to "temporarily" arrest political opponents and others as the need arises. According to research conducted by B’tselem, in April of 2012 about 31% of administrative detainees were held between six months to a year, 34% were held between a year and two years. 13 detainees were held between 2 and 4 years continuously, and two detainees were held more than four and half years continuously.
  • Administrative detention is a blatant means of oppression used by dictatorial and corrupt regimes who fear being confronted in court. The occupation authorities use it to blackmail people, to turn them into collaborators, and to quash political protest.

Prison Conditions Befitting Human Dignity

The prisoners are hostages of the occupation authorities, who intentionally worsen prison conditions when it suits political considerations and in order to use their suffering as a gambling chip. The prisoners’ struggle for dignified prison conditions has been long and arduous, and in the past there have been prolonged hunger strikes. Here are their primary demands:

  • To take Palestinian prisoners out of solitary confinement, including members of the political leadership
  • To stop holding Palestinian prisoners captured in the occupied territories in prisons inside Israel. The imprisonment of prisoners inside Israel, a separate political entity, separates them from their families because of the onerous permit regime and the frequent closures. Family visits become bureaucratic nightmares: they can be prevented from coming at any moment. This violates international law.
  • To allow the families of prisoners from Gaza and the West Bank to visit their family members still being held in Israeli jails. Prisoners from Gaza who are imprisoned in Israel have been forbidden to see their families for the past five years. Hundreds of prisoners from the West Bank are also prevented from doing so.
  • To provide suitable medical treatment to all prisoners
  • To stop the policy of implementing daily searches while using excessive force. The video below shows what these searches look like and what their purpose is:

  • To stop the policy of strip searching prisoners and their families who come to visit them
  • To stop the procedure of binding the hands and feet of the prisoners during family visits, lawyer visits, and medical treatment at hospitals
  • To recognize the prisoners’ right to an education
  • To stop implementing harsh and non-proportional punishments: solitary confinement, heavy fines, preventing family visits, canceling cantina rights, and more
  • To stop the ongoing violations of the most basic rights of the Palestinian detainees, such as preventing the prisoners to meet with lawyers during the investigation and reducing judicial oversight of the detention and interrogation process.