Palestinian prisoners' families and human rights groups demand protection after UN report on sexual abuse in Israeli prisons

Palestinian prisoners' families and human rights groups demand protection after UN report on sexual abuse in Israeli prisons
For the first time, the UN acknowledged in a report that Palestinians have been sexually abused in Israeli detention.
4 min read
West Bank
22 February, 2024
Palestinian human rights groups and detainees' families demanded an independent investigation following UN report of sexual abuse against Palestinians in Israeli detention. [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

Palestinian prisoner support organisations have called for an independent investigation into claims of sexual abuse of Palestinian detainees by Israeli forces.

On Monday, the UN experts issued a report in which, for the first time, the UN acknowledges that Israeli forces are committing sexual abuse against Palestinian detainees.

According to the report, at least two Palestinian detainee women from the Gaza Strip have been raped. The report also indicated that Palestinian detainees face systematic sexual harassment and threats in Israeli detention.

"This report adds to previously documented abuses of our prisoners, which have led to the death of eight prisoners in the occupation jails and the disappearance of many prisoners of whom there is no information since their arrest", said a statement by the prisoner support organisations.

Palestinian prisoners press conference / Qassam Muaddi
Human rights groups said the UN report confirms previous documentation of Israeli abuses to detainees. [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

"We call on the international institutions to take action. Reports are not enough; we demand concrete action to protect our detainees in the occupation jails", the statement stressed.

"We have difficulty documenting testimonies from detainees from Gaza; we call on international human rights organisations to assist with this. We also call on the International Committee of the Red Cross to come out of its silence and call out the violations against our prisoners", it added.

Last week, Palestinian prisoner support groups said that they had suspended all cooperation with the ICRC in protest of what they consider a "lack of action" by the international organisation.

"The new report by the UN experts confirms our own documentation of the occupation's violations of Palestinian prisoners, especially sexual abuse", Helmi Al-Aaraj, director of the Hurreyat civil rights centre in Ramallah, who participated in the press conference, told The New Arab.

"The general prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has to open an investigation into these crimes, which include killing, disappearance and sexual abuse of prisoners", Al-Aaraj said. 

"The Palestinian legal team at the International Court of Justice also has to put these crimes ahead of their case", he added.

The press conference was attended by families of Palestinian detainees and prisoners, who demanded international intervention to protect their loved ones in Israeli jails.

Palestinian prisoners' families / Qassam Muaddi
Families of detainees called for international intervention to protect their loved ones held by Israel. [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

"I am a mother to three prisoners whom the occupation arrested before 7 October, and of whom I have no information at all since 7 October", Nisreen Abu Gharbiyeh, a Palestinian from Al-Ram town in Jerusalem in her late forties, told TNA.

"My eldest, Majd, is 25 years old, has been in the occupation jails for three years and is supposed to be released next August, and my younger two, Ahmed and Fadi, 23 and 21 years old, have been detained without charges for a year. All I know from released prisoners is that Majd has been transferred to the Negev desert prison and that Ahmed and Fadi are detained at the Ofer detention centre", the mother said.

"The anguish is unbearable. I almost don't sleep, thinking what conditions my children are kept in and what treatment they are receiving", she added.

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"It is shameful how all Western governments don't even mention our detainees while insisting on the release of Israeli hostages as if our children weren't human", she said. "As a mother, I have the right to demand that my children come home, and at least to be reassured that they are well, to hear their voices".

In November, Palestinian women and minors who were released from Israeli jails in a prisoners' exchange with Hamas described detention conditions in Israeli prisons as "brutal".

Their testimonies pointed to cutting off electricity and water in detention cells, severe reduction of food quantity and quality, violent searchings, and repeated isolation.

Since 7 October, Israel has arrested more than 7000 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
Currently, some 10,000 Palestinians are held in Israeli jails, including 70 women, 200 children and 3,484 detainees without charges.