Groups petition Israel’s Supreme Court to allow lawyers’ visits to striking prisoners

HAIFA, April 29, 2017 (WAFA) – Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs filed on Thursday a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court against the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) practice which is preventing Palestinian prisoners who are participating in a hunger strike from meeting with their lawyers.

Some 1,500 Palestinians held by Israel began on April 17 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 petition, the Supreme Court scheduled a hearing for May 3, said Adalah in a press release.

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, it said.

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 Detainees Commission 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.”

The joint petition stressed the particular importance of lawyer-client meetings “during a hunger strike when prisoners experience deterioration in their physical condition and 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.”