Geneva- The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights condemns the Israeli authorities' policy of imposing severe fines on Palestinian prisoners for the sake of unfairly punishing and pressuring their families economically.
"Imposition of financial fines on Palestinian prisoners has become a consistent approach adopted by the Israeli judiciary, where almost no sentence is passed without a fine," says Euro-Med.
Financial fines are always high and must be paid within a short period of time, which causes a heavy financial burden on the families of prisoners, especially when it is conditioned by imposing an additional period of imprisonment in case fines are not paid.
According to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), the total amount of Israeli-imposed fines on Palestinian minors reaches 700,000 shekels (around $190,000).
Over the past three years, Israel's policy of imposing heavy fines on prisoners has escalated remarkably. Last year, fines amounted an average of half a million shekels per prisoner. Oftentimes, fines are imposed if a prisoner refuses to be strip searched or if he/she protests against poor living conditions inside prison.
The wife of Samih Aliwi, released a few days ago, from Nablus in the West Bank had to place her family home for sale in order to pay a fine of half a million Israeli shekels imposed on her husband after his arrest two and a half years ago.
"My husband is a jeweler. At the time of his arrest, the Israeli army confiscated all of the jewelry and money in my husband's jewelry store as well as his car," said Watnia Aliwi's wife.
Watania explained that an Israeli court ruled last month to arrest her husband for 33 months and impose a financial fine. When she asked the Israeli prosecutor to deduct the fine from the confiscated jewelry and funds, he refused. Consequently, his family had to pay a fine of half a million Shekels to guarantee their son's freedom and prevent him any new extended terms of detention.
"I was arrested in mid-April 2015 on charges of "moving illicit funds" on my return from Jordan to the West Bank, when, in fact, it was for the treatment of a cancer patient," Fattouh told the Euro-Med team.
Fattouh was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 300,000 shekels, which was even raised to half a million shekels a few days before his release after serving his prison term. Moreover, he was threatened with another two years in prison if the new fine was not paid.
Fattouh's family refused to continue his imprisonment and resorted to selling a piece of land owned by him to pay the fine and to secure the amount required to obtain his freedom. "My wife's jewelry and my money were all confiscated when I was arrested," Fattouh stated.
"Israel's policy of imposing fines does not exclude any prisoners. It even includes female prisoners and children. This is a "war of attrition" against prisoners and their families in an attempt to restrict their livelihoods even more," said Ihsan Adel, Euro-Med's legal advisor.
"These fines are a real nightmare for prisoners' families, a source of pressure and financial drain, at a time Palestinians already suffer from difficult economic and living conditions," Adel added.
Adel pointed out that the arrest of Palestinian prisoners is carried out by military orders that criminalize all aspects of Palestinian life in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and that they are tried before military courts that lack legal dependence and treat prisoners under security regulations.
In addition to a series of punitive measures imposed by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) on Palestinian prisoners, such as isolating them for two weeks and denying family visits under the pretext of violating IPS regulations. Those regulations are written in Hebrew and are not translated; prisoners and detainees are thus punished under "disciplinary rules" that they have not been loosely informed of.
Accordingly, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to compel Israel to respect its obligations as an occupying power and apply them to the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular when it comes to the rights of prisoners and detainees as provided in the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions.
The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor calls for forcing Israel to allow the international investigation committees to enter its prisons and examine the conditions of the prisoners and investigate the prisoners' complaints regarding their poor conditions and the punitive practices they are subjected to.