Israel Prison Service illegally preventing lawyers from meeting with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners

Supreme Court, state have previously determined punitive tactic is illegal; Adalah demands Attorney General take immediate action.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel is urgently fighting an Israel Prison Service (IPS) practice which is preventing Palestinian prisoners who are participating in a hunger strike from meeting with their lawyers.


On 17 April 2017, some 1,500 Palestinians held by Israel and classified as "security prisoners" began a hunger strike to protest the conditions of their detention in Israeli prisons and to demand improvements (Israel is currently holding some 6,500 Palestinians in prisons and detention centers).


A prison guard keeps watch from a tower at Megiddo prison in northern Israel on 24 April 2017. (Photo by Mati Milstein)


In response to the hunger strike, as a punitive measure, the IPS is preventing hunger-striking prisoners from meeting with their lawyers. Attorneys who had scheduled authorized visits with their clients were surprised to discover that the IPS has cancelled their meetings for a variety of illegal pretexts relating to the prisoner's participation in the hunger strike.


Adalah Attorney Muna Haddad sent a letter on 25 April 2017 on behalf of seven attorneys representing Palestinian prisoners to Osnat Mendel, director of the Supreme  Court Department in the State Attorney's Office, demanding immediate intervention to order the IPS to allow Palestinian prisoners participating in the hunger strike to meet with their lawyers.  


"It is illegal to prevent meetings between attorneys and prisoners participating in a hunger strike and this act therefore constitutes a forbidden punishment," Attorney Haddad wrote. "This is a violation of the hunger striking prisoners' basic constitutional right to meet with their legal representatives and a violation of their constitutional right to dignity…


"A prisoner's or detainee's right to meet with an attorney for consultations takes on additional importance when he or she is participating in a hunger strike and is exposed to health risks and IPS punitive sanctions."


A man holding a sign reading “A prisoner also has rights” demonstrates in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners outside Israel’s Megiddo prison on 24 April 2017. (Photo by Mati Milstein)


Meetings between lawyers and prisoners not participating in the hunger strike have not been affected.


In 2004, Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) submitted a petition to the Supreme Court demanding that the IPS halt its practice of preventing attorneys from visiting Palestinian political prisoners and detainees then participating in a hunger strike.


In that case, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time  that the right of prisoners and detainees to meet with their lawyers is guaranteed, including those taking part in a hunger strike. The Supreme Court also decided that the IPS's barring of such meetings were illegal, at the admission of the state's own representative.


(See HCJ 7867/04, Fida Kawaer, et. al. v. The Israel Prison Service (decision delivered 1/9/04).


Given the urgency of the matter, Adalah demands that the attorney general act immediately, within 24 hours, to:

  1. Cancel the IPS's practices preventing attorneys from meeting with prisoners on hunger strike;
  2. Issue an urgent written directive to all IPS personnel clarifying that it is illegal to prevent or delay such meetings.



Ending Illegal Policy of Limiting Attorneys' Meetings with Hunger-Striking Prisoners