Abbas asks Blair to intervene on prisoners

UN’s special rapporteur says Israel’s use of administrative detention "flies in the face of int'l fair trial standards.”

Arabs riot near Ofer Prison 370 (photo credit: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)
Arabs riot near Ofer Prison 370
(photo credit: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday asked Tony Blair, the Quartet Middle East envoy, to intervene on behalf of Palestinian prisoners, the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency reported.
Ma'an quotes PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat as saying he conveyed Abbas's message to Blair.
According to the report, Abbas demanded the release of all Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, particularly those held without charge and prisoners arrested before 1994.
He also requested that Israel lift restrictions on education and family visits imposed on prisoners.
On Wednesday, UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk spoke in support of the 1,550 Palestinian prisoners who have been on a hunger strike since April 17.
In a statement he issued to the media from Geneva, he said he was appalled by human rights violations against Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
Falk, who is tasked with investigating the situation of human rights under Israeli military rule in the West Bank, said the hunger strike was an act of collective nonviolent resistance against Israeli “occupation.” The prisoners, he said, were also protesting unjust arrest procedures, arbitrary detention and bad prison condition.
“I urge the government of Israel to respect its international human rights obligations towards all Palestinian prisoners,” Falk said.
Since the Six Day War in 1967, 750,000 Palestinians, or 20 percent of West Bank Palestinians and 40% of male Palestinians in that area, have spent time in jail, he said.
Although the 1,550 hunger-strikers are not administrative detainees, Falk also slammed Israel for holding Palestinians without leveling charges against them.
“Israel’s wide use of administrative detention flies in the face of international fair trial standards,” he said. “Detainees must be able to effectively challenge administrative detention orders, including by ensuring that lawyers have full access to the evidence on which the order was issued.”
He said that Israel has some 300 Palestinians in administrative detention.
Four administrative detainees are also on a hunger strike. According to Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, two of them are entering their 65th day.
Palestinian activists have rallied around the cause of the hunger strikers, holding protests Tuesday and Wednesday in Betunia, on the outskirts of Ramallah, not far from Ofer Prison.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.