Press Statement from the European Parliaments Delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council after a conference on Palestinian prisoners in Ramallah the 27-28 April 2013.
European Parliament Members call for the freeing of Palestinian political prisoners
Members of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council participated in the international meeting "Freedom and Dignity", which focused on the situation and political role of Palestinian prisoners and was held on 27 and 28 April 2013, at the 11th anniversary of the arrest of Marwan Barghouti, in Ramallah.
More than 4800 Palestinian detainees - including women and children, more than 100 pre-Oslo prisoners, and Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, among them Marwan Barghouti - continue to be held by Israel, which has a major impact on Palestinian society as well as on peace prospects between Israelis and Palestinians.
Palestinian prisoners are held in prisons and detention centres that are, all but one, located inside Israel. This practice clearly violates the Fourth Geneva Convention and creates huge obstacles to family visits. The prisoners' right to family visit must be respected by Israeli authorities that are responsible for ensuring the necessary conditions for this right to be exercised.
Palestinian prisoners, with special regard to Marwan Barghouti, and former prisoners play a crucial role in Palestinian society. We call therefore for an immediate release of Palestinian political prisoners, including all detained Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and we remain convinced that a substantial release of Palestinian prisoners and detainees could be a positive contribution to trust-building between both sides.
Israel continues to extensively use administrative detention, without formal charge or trial, against Palestinians as a substitute to fair judicial process. We call for an immediate end to this practice and call upon Israel to ensure that all Palestinian detainees be charged and brought to a fair trial, with judicial guarantees in accordance with international standards, or be promptly released.
More than 200 Palestinians lost their lives in Israeli prisons and detention centres since 1967 - at least 71 of them died as a direct result of torture, according to a recent statement made by 14 Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations. We call upon Israel to protect Palestinian prisoners' health and lives, in line with her obligations under international law and the rule of law. We also urge Israel to open independent, impartial and transparent investigations into all cases of allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of Palestinian prisoners as well as to make the findings of such investigations public and to hold accountable those responsible for such acts.
We remind that women remain a particularly vulnerable group among Palestinian prisoners while hundreds of Palestinian children under the age of 18 are arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army and prosecuted through Israeli military courts every year. Palestinian women prisoners should receive appropriate protection and gender-sensitive treatment, in line with international conventions Israel is a party of. Israeli authorities must put an end to ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the military detention system, which was described as "widespread, systematic and institutionalized" in a February 2013 UNICEF report.
We continue to support the policy of non-violent resistance of President Mahmoud Abbas, which is the only viable way to Palestinian self-determination and to a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
We also encourage Palestinian prisoners to continue on the path of constructive contribution to achieving intra-Palestinian reconciliation with the aim of creating sustainable peace in the Middle East.
The European Union has to monitor closely the situation of Palestinian detainees and raise this issue at all levels of dialogue with Israel. As part of this process, a European Parliament fact-finding mission should be sent to assess detention conditions of Palestinian prisoners and the practice of administrative detention by Israel, as mentioned in the resolution the Parliament adopted on 14 March 2013. Israel's commitment to respect its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law vis à vis Palestinians, in the light of Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, must be taken into full consideration in the Union's bilateral relations with the country.
The Delegation is composed of the chair Emer Costello (S&D, IE) Veronique De Keyser (S&D, B), Alexandra Thein (ALDE, DE), Nicole Kiil-Nielsen (Greens/EFA, F), Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL, GR)