Petition on Behalf of Arab prisoner Classified to Force IPS to Give Him Back Money That Was Taken Illegally From his Account

Nazareth District Court 138/03 Karim Eunis v. Israel Prison Service

On 6 July 2003, Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel submitted a petition to the Nazareth District Court on behalf of a prisoner requesting that the Court instruct the Israel Prison Service to return funds unlawfully withdrawn from his personal account. Without the knowledge or authorization of the prisoner, the Prison Service withdrew NIS 2,925 from his account for the payment of disciplinary fines imposed on seven other prisoners.

The Israel Prison Service classifies Mr. Karim Yunes, an Arab citizen of Israel, as a "security prisoner." He is one of the oldest political prisoners, who is serving a life sentence at Shata prison. He is also the spokesperson of this group. Mr. Yunes is the sole holder of an account. Two kinds of funds are transferred to his personal account - those for his own personal use as well as those from some prisoner aid associations, which he holds for the use and benefit of all the political prisoners in Shata.

On 30 January 2003, after reviewing the status of his account, Mr. Yunes found that the Prison Service had debited it for NIS 2,925, without his prior knowledge or authorization. Upon his inquiries, he was informed that the Prison Service withdrew these funds to cover monetary fines imposed on other "security prisoners" for disciplinary infractions. According to the Prison Service, these other prisoners had insufficient funds in their personal accounts to cover the fines. He was told that the Prison Service took this action based on a new order issued by the director of Shata prison.

Adalah Attorney Abeer Baker filed the petition on behalf of Mr. Yunes against the Israel Prison Service. The main arguments raised in the petition were:

The Prison Service's withdrawal of money from the personal account of a prisoner for the payment of fines imposed on seven other prisoners constitutes collective punishment. Even if part of the money in the account is to be utilized for the general benefit of the political prisoners, collecting disciplinary fines imposed on individuals from this account contradicts the basic criminal law principle of individual responsibility. As the sole account holder, the Prison Service violated Mr. Yunes' right to property, guaranteed by the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (1992). The money was withdrawn without Mr. Yunes' prior knowledge and authorization. There is no legal basis for this collection procedure. There is no statute or regulation that authorizes the Israel Prison Service to withdraw money from the account of one prisoner in order to pay for disciplinary fines imposed on other prisoners.

As stated in the petition: "The Israel Prison Service acted without any authority, deviated from the procedures and orders which authorize it to collect fines from the personal accounts of prisoners, and effectively nullified the whole principle of individual punishment. It collected funds based on an arbitrary and unreasonable policy while directly injuring the right of the petitioner to his own property."