Israel: Abnaa elBalad appeal for action

We have just received this appeal from the Abna elBalad movement. In spite of appealing - and going on hunger strike - the imprisoned leaders of this movement are still being held in terrible conditions.

Call for Urgent Action

Abnaa elBalad Political Activists, Mohammed Kannaneh and Majed Kannaneh, Detained for 54 Days under Inhuman Conditions in GSS Wing of Israeli Police Detention Center - District Court Refused to Grant an Immediate Remedy - Detainees on Hunger Strike

Yesterday, on 31 March 2004, the Haifa District Court denied motions filed on behalf of two political detainees against the warden of the Kishon Detention Center (also known as "Jalameh"), the Israeli police, and the General Security Service (GSS) requesting an immediate transfer to another Prison Service facility as well as the improvement of detention conditions in the GSS cell block to meet domestic law as well as international standards for the treatment of prisoners. The District Court ruled that: "The respondent[s] announced that they intend to transfer the petitioners to a Prison Service wing or to other prison facility. The case was scheduled for an internal review immediately after the Court vacation for Passover. Under these circumstances, there are no grounds to hold an urgent hearing in the matter ... As provided in the decision given yesterday [sic], if and until 13 April 2004 the petitioners will not be transferred, then the petition will be scheduled for a hearing." These motions were filed as part of a petition submitted by Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn on 28 March 2004.

The two detainees - Mr. Mohammed Kannaneh, aged 38, the General Secretary of Abna al-Balad (an extra-parliamentary political movement) and Mr. Majed Kannaneh, aged 33, both Arab citizens of Israel from Arrabeh in the Galilee - have been detained under cruel, inhuman, and degrading conditions in GSS cell blocks for 54 days. They were arrested on 7 February 2004. They were detained without charge; prevented from meeting with their attorneys for 21 days; and subjected to intensive interrogation by the GSS, which included sleep deprivation, painful handcuffing to a chair, and other illegal methods of investigation. They were indicted on 4 March 2004 for alleged security offences.

Since they were indicted, they have been held at the GSS cell block of the Kishon Detention Center in crowded holding cells (3m x 3m for 6 people), without windows, for 24 hours a day. They are denied their rights as protected by law to: leave the cell for any daily exercise; receive any visits from family members; send or receive letters; contact their family or their attorneys by telephone; receive or to hold any books and newspapers; possess a radio, pens and paper; receive basic hygienic supplies such as toothbrushes and toothpaste; have a daily shower; and sleep on a bed. They are forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor of their holding cell using dirty blankets supplied by the Detention Center. Toilet facilities are inside of the cell without any separation, providing no privacy to users or to the others held in the cell. After the Detention Center ignored previous court judgments ordering it to implement the minimum rights and conditions as provided by law, Mr. Mohammed Kannaneh and Mr. Majed Kannaneh, in protest, began a hunger strike four days ago on 28 March 2004.

In the petition, Adalah argued that since their arrest, the detainees have been denied the minimum conditions and rights granted to them by Israeli domestic law, pursuant to Article 9 of the Criminal Procedure (Enforcement Powers - Arrest) Law - 1996 (Conditions of Detention) and as specified in numerous provisions of the accompanying 1997 regulations to this law regarding the minimum conditions of holding in detention and the rights of detainees. Adalah further argued that the detention conditions in the GSS cell block are cruel, inhumane, and degrading and breach the detainees' constitutional rights to dignity, freedom, privacy, and family life, as protected by the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty - 1992. These detention conditions further violate international standards, namely Article 16 of the Convention against Torture, which prohibits acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as well as the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

In response to the motions, on 29 March 2004, the State Attorney for the Haifa District, representing the position of the Detention Center, the Israeli police and the GSS, claimed that: "The respondents agree that at this stage, after the submission of the indictment... they should be held in a wing under the authority of the Prison Service (and accordingly to receive the rights that they are entitled to by law). According to the response of the Prison Service, it was because of a mistake that their names were not transferred to the Prison Service in order to arrange for them to be absorbed in the usual manner. Once this mistake was known, the relevant bodies are acting in order to transfer the petitioners as soon as possible, as requested in the petition. Because of all of the above, the petition is not relevant anymore, and the Honorable Court is asked to reject it." Attached to the State Attorney's response were several letters and documents including:

(1) A letter of the Legal Advisor of the Prison Service to the State Attorney, which stated that: "The Prison Service is allocating places for the absorption of graduates of the GSS interrogation, according to the number of free prison places available... The names of the two petitioners were not given to the Prisoners Department until now. After we will receive a request from the security bodies (and we were told that this will be done tomorrow), then, the Prison Service will act to absorb the two petitioners as soon as possible."

(2) A letter from the Deputy Warden of the Kishon Detention Center to the State Attorney, which stated that: "From the check that I conducted, it was found that the detainees are held in the security wing, which is present in the Detention Center and run by the GSS as an autonomous framework. The status of the detainees... entitles the detainees to a transfer to a Prison Service facility and makes it a duty of the Prison Service to "snatch" them to its holding and keep them under its custody. As of today, the rights entitled to prisoners are not fulfilled towards the detainees... The detainees are of great danger to themselves and to others, and are considered violent, and that is why it is impossible to allow the use of razors or toothbrushes. As well, it is impossible in this place to supply exercise in the open air, family visits, etc. For the above circumstances, my only option is to ask the Honorable Court to force the Prison Service to "snatch" and absorb the detainees to its custody...The security wing is placed in a separate building from the building of the police Detention Center, and is not subordinate to the Detention Center, but only receives different services from it."

(3) A memo written by the State Attorney describing a conversation with the Legal Advisor of the GSS, which stated that: "Respondent 3 [GSS] has no objection to the transfer of the petitioners, as requested in their petition, to a "regular" wing in the Detention Center... It shall be noted that in accordance with the common regulations, items such as toothbrushes are not supplied to the detainees in their cells but only soon before bathing and this because of security reasons, so they will not transfer the item, such as a toothbrush, into a dangerous weapon. It should be noted though that as a result of the request of petitioner 1 to the interrogator "Yanay", he was supplied with cigarettes and a toothbrush. It is true that the toothbrush was broken from its base, without the handle, for the security reasons mentioned above."

It must be emphasized that the Haifa District Court refused to issue a temporary transfer order or to schedule an urgent hearing, although (1) the State Attorney admitted to some of the facts as presented in the petition and did not deny the rest; (2) none of the respondents committed to specific date for the transfer of the detainees; and (3) none of the respondents committed to changing any of the detainees' conditions of detention in the GSS cell block. As a result, Mr. Mohammed Kannaneh and Mr. Majed Kannaneh, remain in the GSS cell block under the same cruel, inhuman, and degrading conditions, possibly for the next two weeks, with no immediate legal remedy.

Personal information:

Mr. Mohammed Kannaneh, Israeli ID No. 059403329, Date of birth: 8 May 1965, Hometown: Arrabeh village in the Galilee in the north of Israel, Date of detention: 7 February 2004, Date of indictment, 4 March 2004

Mr. Majed Kannaneh, Israel ID No. 028214393, Date of birth: 5 February 1971, Hometown: Arrabeh village in the Galilee in the north of Israel, Date of detention: 7 February 2004, Date of indictment, 4 March 2004

Appeals to be sent to:

Minister of Justice, Tommy Lapid, Fax: +972-2-675-3764

Minister of Internal Security, Tzachi Hanegbi, Fax: +972-2-581-1832

Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz, Fax: +972-2-627-4481

State Attorney for the Haifa District, Shunit Segal, Advocate, Fax: +972-4-863-3918

Deputy Warden of the Kishon Detention Center, Oded Sa'ar, Fax: +972-4-903-9403

Contact information for Adalah:
Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn, Mobile: +972-53-206653

Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
PO Box 510, Shafa'amr 20200, Israel
Tel: +972-4-950-1610 / Fax: +972-4-950-1610