Press Release

8 September 2011

Adalah to District Court: Order Israel Prison Service to Allow "Security Prisoners" to Complete their Academic Education

On 8 September 2011, Adalah submitted a petition to the Nazareth District Court on behalf of Rawi Sultany, a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel who is categorized as a "security prisoner", to demand that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) allow him to continue his academic studies at the Open University. Sultany is a 25-year-old political prisoner who was sentenced to 68 months' imprisonment for contacting an enemy agent. He has been studying via correspondence in the Faculty of Political Science at the Open University for 18 months. Adalah Attorney Rima Ayoub filed the petition.

Before his arrest, Sultany had completed two academic years of law school. Following his imprisonment, he enrolled at the Open University, and successfully finished three academic semesters of political science study. After registering for the summer semester, Sultany learned that the IPS had decided to ban all prisoners classified as security prisoners from studying at the Open University, and therefore he cannot pursue his studies. The Open University is the only academic institution in which prisoners can enroll, and as a result preventing them from doing so in practice denies them any opportunity to gain a higher academic education.

In the petition, Attorney Ayoub argued that the IPS's decision was a purely political decision made in direct response to the case of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. She contended that taking punitive measures against a Palestinian prisoner because of the circumstances of Gilad Shalit was completely illegitimate, particularly where it violates the prisoner's basic and constitutional rights.

Adalah emphasized that in making this decision, the IPS had greatly overstepped the powers granted to it by law, since it was based on subjective considerations beyond its authority. The decision is not aimed at protecting the security, order or safety within prison, was not made for reasons of internal prison management, and has nothing to do with any individual risk arising from Sultany continuing his academic education. These cases are only circumstances in which the law allows the IPS to punish a prisoner.

The petitioners argued that the IPS's decision gravely violates Sultany's right to education and other basic rights regarded as protected constitutional rights, such as the rights to dignity and equality, particularly since the decision to ban education does not apply to criminal prisoners, or to Israeli Jewish prisoners convicted of security crimes.

Israel law and legal precedents stipulate the need to protect the human rights of prisoners after they have been imprisoned; they are not supposed to be subjected to additional punishments on top of their imprisonment and the restriction on their movement. Any additional violation of a prisoner's rights must be based on clear legal authority and comply with Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom. The law and individual rights do not cease to apply when a prisoner enters prison. On the contrary, in such circumstances it is necessary to protect the prisoner from the use of force and absolute power against him or her by the prison authorities as a result of imprisonment.

Attorney Fouad Sultany, father of Rawi Sultany, commented that, "Stopping prisoners from studying at university is one of many retaliatory steps that have been taken against them after [Prime Minister] Netanyahu announced his decision to place further restrictions on security prisoners after negotiations stalled over a prisoner exchange between the Israeli government and Hamas. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are enrolled at the Open University. They consider education to be the best means of developing themselves, passing and benefitting from their time in prison, as well as reducing their sense of isolation. Regarding my son Rawi, it was a big shock when the IPS stopped him from studying, especially after he had completed half of his degree and scored excellent grades. We hope that the court will respond to our demand, which will open the door for all prisoners to continue their university education."

The petition (Hebrew)

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