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 Court justices.

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.

Netanyahu’s logic 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) prisoners.

Criminal prisoners are still allowed to take such courses.

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.

The 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.

The 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.”

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