Summary of Israeli Public Defender's Office Report on conditions of detention

Summary of Israeli Public Defender's Office Report on conditions of detention

Following is a summary of a report from an Israeli public defenders office published in May 2004. The report addressed the conditions of detention and incarceration in Israeli police stations and facilities of the Israeli Prison Authority. The report was prepared after the public defenders office undertook 15 visits to detention centers and three visits to prisons in 2003. It covers the conditions of incarceration of both criminal and political prisoners.

Comments from Addameer are included as notes.

The general conditions in these facilities as seen during the majority of the visits were very poor. These conditions represent a clear violation of both the requirements of the law and Israeli court decisions regarding living conditions. The Israeli High Court of Justice has given the concerned parties until 1 June 2004 to apply the minimal standards such as providing a bed for each detainee


1. Prisoners sleeping on the ground

Detainees were sleeping on the floor without a bed in 9 of the 15 detention centers visited by the committee of the public defenders office. For example, during the first visit to the Russian Compound, 35 detainees were sleeping on the floor and 18 detainees continued to sleep on the floor during the second visit.

Note: All Palestinian detainees sleep on the floor in all military detention centers and interrogation centers. [end note]

2. Size of the rooms and the living conditions in them

More than half the detention centers are over crowded: 20 detainees in the Russian Compound are held in a room with only 12 beds.

Note: According to a sworn affidavit given to Addameer on 25 April 2004 regarding the conditions at Azion Detention Center:

"The cell is designed for 10 persons and we were 12 detainees. The room measures 4 x 4 meters, there are 10 mattresses in the room - some are in very bad condition, they're ripped and smell bad. Some are covered and others aren't. One mattress is moldy and is dirt black. Each detainee has one blanket. The walls are smooth and painted but the ceiling is covered with mould, there is only one light from a window measuring 1.50 or 1.10 square meters. It has metal bars and glass wiring, the ventilation is insufficient. We go out for a walk once a day for an hour. In the morning, we only go out for 10 minutes. We can only use the bathroom three times a day; sometimes the soldiers won't let us out more than three times so we have to urinate in a bottle in the room. The average size of rooms in most prisons is 2 meters, although it is sometimes as large as 2.5 or 3 meters. The rooms in Askelan Detention Center are 8 x 6 meters and 8 persons are held there, some large rooms hold up to 20 detainees." [end n ote]

The space allocated for each detainee is considered much less than that required in the internal regulations for detention centers. In Ramle Detention Center, the allocated space per detainee is 1 meter, and each detainee in Lod Detention Center is allocated 1.2 meters.

3. The lack of separation between the shower and the toilet

There is no separation between the shower and the toilet in 11 of the 15 detention centers that were visited. The shower drain is the same as the toilet drain, which causes bad smells that are difficult to get rid of. This is harmful to the detainees health who complained to the members of the committee of the public defenders office of the existence of insects and mice in the rooms and courtyards. The delegates saw these insects themselves when they visited the Jalame Detention Center. The walls are filthy and unpainted. The ceiling is black and damp. The floor is filthy and full of dirt in Maabar Nitsan, although the rooms were in better condition during the second visit. This is also the situation in central prisons such as Askelan where "the toilet and shower are in the same 1 x 2 meter room."

4. Unacceptable ventilation

The committee found that the ventilation was unacceptable in 10 of the 15 centers visited. The smell was unbearable inside the room. In the Lod Police Station there are no windows at all, there is only one air vent that is out of order.

5. The deprivation of the right to a daily break in an open space

The law stipulates that no person should be detained for more than seven days in a center where there is no possibility of executing his/her right to a daily break. Therefore the Israeli Prison Authority must transfer him/her to another facility where s/he can execute his/her right to a daily break. The detainees are deprived of this right in 8 of the 15 centers visited. During most visits, there were detainees who had been deprived of their right to a daily break for period ranging between seven days to two months. There are no special courtyards for the walks in the Lod and Dimona Detention Centers.

Note: The daily break was reduced from 4 hours to 2 hours, one in the morning and one in the evening, in all the central prisons. The exercise hour has been banned in prisons since July 2003. All the sports material was removed from the metal-roofed courtyards, which measure 15-25 by 20 meters. It is forbidden to return to the room immediately after the daily break. A water fridge was installed in the courtyard at Askelan. Before 2003 there was table tennis, basket ball and volley ball equipment in the yard, but now the detainees run during the daily break. Each section goes out on the daily break alone. All sections have between 70-80 detainees, and there are 120 detainees in certain prisons. Visits between the sections are forbidden despite the fact that they are only 4-5 meters from each other. The detainees at Askelan don't know anything about the detainees in the other sections. Not all the detainees pray together during the Friday prayer which is permitted in place of the daily break in Hado riym [end note]

6. Weak lighting in the rooms

No sunlight enters the rooms in the Lod Detention Center. The light is prevented from entering the rooms in the Russian Compound, where the rooms are completely covered.

7. Use of the telephone and/or receiving visits is not allowed

Detainees held until the end of the proceedings have the right to make one phone call a day. Nevertheless, the possibility of making a phone call from the pay phone at the Haifa Police Station or port police is extremely limited. Detainees are often punished by being denied family visits. The director of the Emakim Detention Center, allowed detainees to receive visits, but the two visiting rooms are very small. The detainee is separated from his visitors by a wire mesh and a window. The distance between the detainee and his family or visitors is 120 centimeters. The conversation is carried out using internal phones. The visibility and possibility of conversation are limited.

8. The Clinic and the right to treatment

There have been problems with detainees receiving treatment in 3 of 15 centers visited. There are no adequate health and/or psychological services. The children detainees in the Ansar 3 (Ketziot) complained of the lack of specialized medical services, and those who had a cold had to wait for four days to see the nurse.

9. The delay in transferring detainees through the Nitsan entrance

The process of transferring detainees in order to attend court hearings is difficult and problematic. The committee recalled the case of a detainee from Hadoriym who was transferred to Nitsan on Thursday because his hearing was on Sunday in Petah Tikva, which is 40 minutes away from Hadoriym. He spent the night at the Nitsan entrance in very poor conditions. The judge ordered after ruling on the detainee's petition that he be transferred immediately from Hadoriym to Petah Tikva to attend his hearing.

Note: Palestinian political prisoners complain of the frequent, difficult and humiliating conditions of their transfer, whether it is from one prison to another, or in order to attend their trials. This creates a feeling of instability because most of the security detainees currently in prison are detained but have not yet been convicted. For example, the transfer of a detainee from Nafha to attend his trial in Salem can take up to a week, since the prisoner is transferred from Nafha to Ramle then to Jalama. After that he attends his trial after having spent a night in each center. After the trial, the detainee has to spend a night in Jalame, then Ramle until he reaches Nafha. One detainee, Walid Habbas, is transferred nearly every 20 days from one prison to another. In the past two months he was transferred to four prisons. Nearly 20-30 detainees are transferred weekly from Askelan. [end note]

10. The delay in transferring prisoners to the prison authority

The delay in transferring detainees who have been charged or sentenced to the facilities of the prison authorities is a violation of their rights. It also increases the crowding of detainees in detention centers, obstructs the execution of the law, and limits the detainees' rights inside the facilities of the prison authority. The delegates of the committee found that of the 199 detainees in Russian Compound, 23 had been sentenced and should have been transferred to a prison facility. During another visit there were 176 detainees, 38 of which were sentenced and should have been transferred to the facilities of the prison authorities


The committee visited three prisons: Shatta, Tesalmon and Harmon. The public defenders office stated Shatta is extremely crowded, and the space allocated for each detainee is substantially less than the space ordered by internal regulations.

1. Solitary confinement/ isolation rooms

Committee delegates mentioned the case of two prisoners who were punished by being isolated for a week in the Shatta Prison. They spent the first 24 hours in a room without a mattress or a bed. Sixty-two (62) criminal prisoners and 11 political prisoners were sleeping on the floor on the day the committee visited Shatta. The committee described the conditions in the rooms as difficult and incompatible with the minimum standards in the regulations, especially regarding health and sanitation. The walls are rotten, the paint is peeling off because of the dampness in the filthy rooms, and the ventilation is bad in several rooms filled sewer smells. These conditions do not include the new political prisoner section.

Political prisoners are held in isolation in Section 8 of Beer al-Sabe and in three sections of Hadarim. Prisoners are deprived of their right to an education in the isolation section in Hadarim. Prisoners are prevented from continuing thier education if they have "security problems" or if they contact a university themselves. Prisoners are often punished by being deprived from continuing their education for a period lasting up to a year.

2. The religious rights

The religious needs of all the prisoners are not met. Although there is a rabbi and a place for prayer for Jewish detainees, there is no religious representative for Muslim or Christian detainees, despite the fact that the majority of prisoners are Muslim.

3. Violence at the hands of the prison guards

The public defenders office delegates referred to the extreme violence by the prison guards as a "new phenomenon". There have been many complaints from prisoners about untreated or severe violence by the guards. Committee members heard many claims regarding the use of collective punishment against the political prisoners by the guards. They complained about mass searches of their rooms, and punishments accompanied by severe, continuous, and organized violence.

There have been complaints from prisoners who have been asked to get undressed in front of their fellow prisoners and the police, often accompanied by personal punishment, physical violence and beating all over the body. Committee members questioned the prison doctor about these incidents and requested photos to document the injuries. The doctor and the prison officer refused to let the committee look at the pictures in the prisoners' medical files - a response which seemed incomprehensible to the members of the committee.

The committee stated that this information should be handled with caution, but one must not turn a blind eye to the number and the repeated complaints because of the fear of the administration's lack of concern regarding these complaints.

Finally, prison conditions in Israel are difficult, violate the prisoners' health and dignity, and are contrary to the laws and regulations regarding the conditions of detention.

Note: Special police forces break into the prisoners' rooms at night, armed with guns and batons, and fire bullets that resemble rubber bullets that don't pierce the body but leaves bruises and red marks that convince the prisoner he has been injured. They force the prisoners to lie down on the floor, tie their hands, and take them out of their rooms during the search. Last Tuesday, two rooms were broken into and searched at Askelan from 5 am to 11 am. A week ago, the B units broke into rooms at Nafha.

The naked body search is used in several instances (especially in Shatta, where prisoners are forced to take their underwear off too):

1. When the prisoner is transferred to and from Shatta Prison.

2. When he goes out to meet his lawyer.

3. When he goes out to meet his family.

4. When he is transferred to attend his trial or transferred from Shatta to another prison.

5. When he asks to go to the clinic.

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