A new report released by the Israeli Public Defense Office (PDO) has found that Israel is engaged in flagrant human rights abuses against prisoners in its jails, subjecting detainees to cruel and unusual punishment and keeping them in prisons that are unfit for human habitation.
Released earlier this month as the conclusion to surprise visits by PDO staff in 2017 and 2018, the report found that 19 detention facilities were “unfit for human residence” and suffered from a range of problems such a mold and the infestation of mice, rats, cockroaches, bedbugs and other insects. The situation is so extreme that some detainees said they would rather sleep on the concrete floor than use the bed.
“This is a nationwide problem that causes a daily violation of prisoners’ and detainees basic rights and a violation of their human rights”
The shocking report also highlighted 16 cases where prisoners were given less than 1.5 metres of living space alongside widespread reports of a lack of windows, clean clothing and working toilets.
Alongside the poor quality of infrastructure, the PDO report also documents direct abuse by prison staff across the system. The report shows prisoners are being forced into invasive strip-searches as a behaviour deterrent, bound to their beds until the point of defecation, as well as bound with their hands above their heads. The document goes on to further highlight the use of hoses on prisoners, one individual being forced to stay in soaked clothes for days after being sprayed with water.
The practice of securing prisoners to beds is said to be widely practised at Ofek Prison which only contains teenage detainees.
Human rights abuses against Palestinian prisoners in Israel is not merely overzealousness on the part of individual officers, it is government policy with Gilad Erdan, the Israeli Strategic Affairs and Public Security Minister, stating earlier this year that making “conditions worse” was “conditions worse is necessary both to create deterrence and to fulfil our moral duty to terror victims and their families.”
Just under 6,000 Palestinians are currently being held by Israel, with at least 230 of those said to be children. Around 100 Palestinians are being held without charge and without trial, some being held for over a decade.