On Tuesday, 15 February 2022, in response to the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ), the State Prosecution—the representative body of the Israel Prison Service and the Minister of Public Security—decided to reinstate family visits for prisoners from the Gaza Strip, which were suspended in March 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19. This follows a petition filed by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and HaMoked Center for the Defense of the Individual on 20 December 2021 that demanded the reinstatement of regular family visits and phone calls between prisoners from the Gaza Strip, detained in Israel, and their families.
During the two-year ban, Palestinian prisoners were permitted to make phone calls only once, during Ramadan, following a petition filed by Al Mezan, HaMoked and other human rights organizations.
It should be noted that family visitation for Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank and Jerusalem was resumed in July 2021, while 220 prisoners from Gaza, classified as “security prisoners” by the Israeli authorities, remained completely cut off from their families.
In its response, the State Prosecution said, “following an examination by the Prison Service Commissioner, security officials, and the Ministry of Health, and after assessing the epidemiological situation, the reinstatement of the family visitation program for prisoners from the Gaza Strip has been decided, and the State competent authorities are working to arrange the matter as soon as possible”. Notably, this decision does not include 70 prisoners that are classified as Hamas associates, who have been denied visits from 2017 as part of Israel’s sanctions against Gaza.
Palestinian human rights organizations re-affirmed that the right of the prisoner to regular family visitation is guaranteed by international humanitarian law (IHL) and any prejudice to this right amounts to a violation of IHL and a collective punishment against prisoners and their families. Al Mezan and HaMoked will together follow-up the implementation of this decision, which should include all Palestinian prisoners.