Adalah, Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs petitions Israeli Supreme Court to allow hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners to meet with lawyers

Israel Prison Service is in contempt of court for preventing meetings between lawyers and striking prisoners; Supreme Court ruled in 2004 this punitive practice is illegal.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court yesterday, 27 April 2017, against the 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).


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


Adalah Attorney Muna Haddad and attorneys Yamen Zedan and Suleiman Shahin of the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs wrote in the joint petition, filed on behalf of 11 attorneys: “It is illegal to prevent meetings between attorneys and prisoners participating in a hunger strike and this act therefore constitutes a forbidden punishment. A lawyer’s job is to defend a prisoner’s rights and preventing them from meeting therefore denies the prisoner the guarantee of defense of these constitutional rights…”


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


The joint petition stressed the particular importance of lawyer-client meetings “during a hunger strike when prisoners experiences a deterioration in their physical condition and they become more vulnerable and exposed to risks, and to IPS punitive sanctions. It is thus of utmost importance to particularly maintain the rights of hunger striking prisoners and detainees to meet with their lawyers.”


Adalah and attorneys Zedan and Shahin also stressed in the petition that meetings between striking prisoner and lawyers takes on additional importance in light of the prisoners’ absolute cut-off from the outside world: “The prisoners who continue to strike in hopes of improving their living conditions in the prisons are completely cut off from the outside world without the possibility of lawyers seeing or hearing what they are experiencing and to ensure that their rights are not being violated.”


In response to the joint petition, the Supreme Court ruled late last night that a hearing will be held on 3 May 2017 at 11:30.


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.


Today’s petition also maintains that the IPS is in contempt of court for violating this 2004 Supreme Court ruling.


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)


Adalah and attorneys Zedan and Shahin demand the Supreme Court order the IPS to allow hunger striking Palestinian prisoners to meet with their attorneys.


Case Citation: HCJ3555/17, Attorney Ashraf Khatib, et al. v. Israel Prison Service (case pending)


CLICK HERE to read the joint petition [Hebrew]



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