Erekat Urges EU’s Ashton to Take Immediate Action to Free Prisoners

RAMALLAH, February 18, 2013 (WAFA) – Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat Monday wrote European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urging her immediate intervention to help free Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

“I am writing you regarding the urgent situation of thousands of Palestinians in Israeli occupation prisons, and particularly the desperate situation of four hunger strikers, to respectfully urge you to take immediate action in order to free our Palestinian prisoners in Israeli occupation prisons,” said Erekat in the letter distributed by his office.

“The illegal behavior of Israeli occupation forces, and particularly the draconian laws against Palestinians, including so-called “administrative detention”, has allowed Israel, the occupying power, to imprison around 800,000 Palestinian men and women, including children and the elderly, since the beginning of the 1967 occupation. These also include members of Parliament, such as Marwan Barghouthi and Ahmad Saadat,” he said.

“The Israeli military justice system is oppressive,” said Erekat. “Israeli military courts, where the conviction rate of Palestinians stands at 99%, do not meet the minimum international criteria for a fair trial.”

Erekat said that “it is no longer acceptable to merely request better treatment of Palestinians in Israeli occupation prisons, but to demand an end to the arbitrary system of Israeli detentions.”

He said Israel “systematically violates human rights law and humanitarian law as it relates to Palestine and its people, particularly concerning the issue of arrest, detention and imprisonment.”

The chief negotiator warned that if any of the prisoners die as a result of their extended hunger strike, particularly Samer Issawi, who has been on hunger strike for over 200 days, “we will hold Israel fully responsible for his death and we will also hold the international community partly responsible for enabling Israel to act with such egregious impunity.”

“We are asking you to prevent a tragedy and take immediate and definitive action to secure the freedom of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike,” Erekat told Ashton.

“More broadly, we demand an end to Israeli arbitrary detention, applied in the vast majority of cases under the guise of ‘administrative detention,’ the upholding of Palestinian prisoners’ rights, and the freedom of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli occupation prisons.”

He said: “We believe it is time for the EU to take concrete steps in order to end Israel’s impunity and defiance of international law, including numerous UN resolutions.”

Erekat concluded by urging the EU “to consider the importance of human rights and international humanitarian law in your bilateral relations and agreements with the State of Israel, as well as the need to find a resolution to the Palestine-Israel conflict through the implementation of the two-state solution on the 1967 border, and the promotion of peace, prosperity and stability in the Middle East.”

Source: WAFA News