Deputy Supreme Court President Miriam Naor on Sunday granted the motion of three
Palestinian prisoners for a rare appeal of a decision to uphold banning higher
education for security prisoners.
Such appeals are generally limited to
cases which implicate constitutional issues of the utmost importance, the
decision to uphold the government policy was made by a panel of three Supreme
Naor ordered that between seven and the maximum number of
nine justices would hear the appeal, the final decision on the number being in
the hands of Supreme Court President Asher D. Grunis.
In the summer of
2011, prior to the release of Gilad Schalit, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
announced that in light of the fact that Schalit’s whereabouts were being kept
secret, with no right to visit and expected harsh detention conditions,
Palestinian prisoners convicted of security-related offenses would no longer be
able to study for college degree while in confinement.
was that such security prisoners should not have such unusual privileges while
Schalit was being so mistreated by his Hamas captors.
Even after Schalit
was released, the ban on college studies continued.
According to Adalah –
the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, who jointly represents the
petitioners along with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel – in 2010,
there were 270 prisoners taking correspondence courses at the Open University,
of whom only 60 were criminal-classified (as opposed to security)
Criminal prisoners are still allowed to take such
On December 24, 2012, the three-justice panel of the Supreme
Court denied the petitions of the three prisoners to continue their studies at
the Open University.
The Court held that education was not the right of a
prisoner and that the distinction between security prisoners and criminal
prisoners was acceptable and was not impermissible discrimination.
petitioners appeal argued that an additional hearing was needed because the
Court’s ruling sharply contradicted the prohibition of arbitrary discrimination
between prisoners, and that it could be perverted into making other aspects of
security prisoners’ conditions worse even without any security issue.
petitioners had stressed that “leaving the ruling intact could significantly
erode basic legal principles relating to prisoners” including that “human rights
are not abandoned at the prison gates” and that violating “a prisoner’s rights
is only allowed if it is necessary to maintain public order or prison security.”