Demanding Cancellation of Israel Prison Service Order Restricting Attorneys' Access to Detainees

HCJ 5613/06, Attorney Fadi Qawasmi, et. al. v. The Israel Prison Service

On 4 July 2006, during an urgent hearing held on a petition submitted by Adalah, the Supreme Court of Israel issued a decision obliging the Israel Prison Service (IPS) to allow lawyers representing detained members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to immediately meet with them. Adalah submitted the petition on behalf of Attorneys Fadi Qawasmi and Fida Qawar, who represent PLC members Ahmad Attoun, Mohammad Abu Ter and Khaled Abu Arafa, had been denied access to meeting with the detained men, who were arrested on 29 June 2006. One day after their arrests, the Israeli Minister of the Interior decided to revoke their Jerusalem residency status.

The petition was filed by Adalah Attorney Abeer Baker on 3 July 2006. In the petition, Adalah argued that preventing lawyers from meeting with detained individuals violates the detainees’ basic right to legal counsel and increases the possibility that their rights to bodily integrity, health, dignity and access to the courts will be infringed. Adalah emphasized that preventing the two lawyers from meeting with the PLC members also impedes their ability to challenge the Minister of the Interior’s decision to revoke their residency status, which places them in danger of being expelled from Jerusalem after their release.

Adalah also challenged the IPS’s general policy regarding attorneys’ visits to all Palestinian political detainees. As Adalah argued, the IPS imposes many restrictions on such meetings, preventing attorneys from entering the detention facilities unless the meetings were arranged in advance with the authorities. These restrictions apply even in crucial and urgent cases. Attorney Baker also demanded that the Court order the IPS to cancel its recent decision, issued in the aftermath of the abduction of an Israeli soldier, which prevents all attorneys from entering Israeli prisons to meet their clients, and Palestinian prisoners termed in Israeli law as “security” prisoners, in particular. Adalah argued that the IPS lacks the authority to issue such an order.

At the hearing, the IPS retracted its position and announced that a new order would be issued to allow all attorneys to visit Palestinian detainees. Adalah then refused a request made by the IPS to withdraw the petition, arguing that the IPS’s new decision did not respond to a principle issue raised, namely the restrictions placed on Palestinian prisoners in general in the exercise of their constitutional right to meet with their attorneys. The Supreme Court accepted Adalah’s request to keep the petition pending on this matter.

H.C. 5613/06, Fadi Qawasmi, et. al. v.The Israel Prison Service (case pending)

 The Petition (H)