Challenging Prison Service Policy of Prohibiting Participation in Certain Course in Political Science, Human Science and Social Sciences

Nazareth District Court 807/02 Saleh Ibrahim v. Israel Prison Service

On 29 May 2003, the Nazareth District Court ruled that political prisoners should be allowed to continue taking courses in political science, humanities and social sciences offered by the Open University of Israel. The Court further ordered that all confiscated course materials be returned to the prisoners, and that all Israeli prisons comply with the ruling.

This decision came in response to four prisoner's petitions filed by Adalah Staff Attorney Abeer Baker in December 2002, on behalf of four political prisoners and against the Prisons Authority and the Open University of Israel. The petitions sought to cancel a decision by the Prisons Authority to prohibit political prisoners from registering for certain Open University courses, or from completing courses in which they were already registered.

Under the policy, introduced in late 2002, political prisoners were required to submit their enrollment applications through the Prisons Authority, rather than directly to the Open University as they had previously done. The policy was applied unevenly; in some cases, courses that were prohibited at one prison were permitted at others. The Prisons Authority alleged that materials associated with the prohibited courses may lead to incitement, and may constitute a threat to the security of the prison and the state.

In February 2003, the Prisons Authority agreed to allow prisoners to take any courses of their choosing, on the condition that the courses do not require supporting materials other than paper. The Prisons Authority stated that it would reserve the right to ban specific courses if it could be demonstrated that the course constitute a security risk to the prison or to the state.

In his decision, Judge Itzhak Cohen noted that the policy outlined by the Prisons Authority in February 2003 had not been implemented. He stated that the prisoners should petition the Court again if they are prevented from taking any courses, or if any of their confiscated learning materials are not returned within 30 days.

Nazareth District Court 807/02 Saleh Ibrahim v. Israel Prison Service