The appalling situation of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons – CIDSE

The appalling situation of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons

Adalah, HaMoked and PHRI advocate in Brussels to end Israel’s dehumanisation and denial of basic rights to Palestinian detainees
By Ahmed Al Aydi

In March 2024, CIDSE members’ partner organisations Adalah, HaMoked, and Physicians for Human Rights- Israel (PHRI) met in Brussels during a visit to discuss the dire situation of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons and military detention centers. These organisations provide legal assistance and advocacy for Palestinian prisoners in the occupied Palestinian territory and are also engaged in advocacy and documentation efforts. In Brussels, they met with European and Belgian policy makers and representatives of EU member states to draw attention to this urgent issue and to highlight the horrific treatment of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons and detention centers. They called policy makers to action to ensure the rights and dignity of Palestinian detainees within the framework of international law and human rights standards.

Since October 7, 2023, the situation for Palestinian detainees has severely deteriorated. In their report to the UN Special Rapporteur against torture, Adalah, HaMoked, and PHRI document that Israel holds over 9,300 Palestinians that it classifies as “security prisoners”, “an increase of over 4,000 individuals since the beginning of the war, including 3,661 administrative detainees, held without charge or the possibility of trial”[1]. According to Defense for Children International, Palestine, among them are almost 200 children, including 61 under administrative detention.

While the situation for Palestinians in the Israeli prison system was already characterised by ill-treatment and denial of basic rights, this has been exacerbated over the past 7 months. The deterioration is the direct result of policy choices by the Israeli government that our partner organisations identified as a broader pattern of systemic abuse and dehumanising rhetoric. One of Adalah’s Attorneys, Ms. Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabialah explained that “the Knesset passed a temporary order giving National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir – known for his openly racist views toward Palestinians—the authority to declare a prison emergency“. Notably, Minister Ben-Gvir, who has direct authority over the Israel Prison Service’s (IPS) officers, has consistently advocated for subjecting Palestinians to humiliating and inhumane treatment.

One of those measures taken by Ben-Gvir is the deliberate overcrowding of the wards where Palestinians detainees are held. This has now reached critical levels, with detainees forced to live in cramped and unsanitary conditions that violate basic human rights standards. Our partners indicate widespread cases of prisoner abuse, neglect, and ill-treatment, including arbitrary detention, denial of communication, and harsh disciplinary measures. They also report that “the lack of access to medical care for detainees raises concerns about medical neglect, with potential life-threatening consequences”.  In addition, a recent UN report has warned against gender-based violence and sexual assaults against Palestinian women and girls. Haaretz also published testimonies of male Palestinian detainees who were subjected to sexual abuse.

The situation for detainees from Gaza is even more dire. According to our partners, since October 7, 2023, the number of Gazan detainees held by the Israeli army is unknown, but estimates are in the thousands. In addition, HaMoked states that as of May 2024, 865 detainees have been classified as “Unlawful Combatants”[2].

As mentioned by Palestinians released from detention centers and as reported by the media, detainees, including minors, are held in open-air cages without appropriate shelter, permanently handcuffed and blindfolded, forced to kneel all day and sleep on the floor at night. They do not receive adequate food, hygiene or medical care.

PHRI has reported about abusive medical care of Palestinians in detention centers. For example, Gazan detainees are held there in open-air pens and kept blindfolded and handcuffed at all time, even when receiving medical care. Reports indicate that these restraints have led to severe injuries in some cases, forcing medical staff to carry out limb amputations[3]. Other reports indicate that detainees from Gaza are subjected to inhumane treatment, including torture, physical abuse, harassment, intimidation, and sexual abuse[4]. Recently, CNN published shocking testimonies of whistleblowers, exposing harrowing conditions, torture and deliberate dehumanization; Haaretz’s report confirmed the deaths of at least 27 Palestinian detainees in the military detention centers of Sde Teiman, Anatot and Offer.

The Gaza detainees are held incommunicado, without access to lawyers, family or even visits by the ICRC. The denial of access to the ICRC and other humanitarian organisations not only prevents detainees from Gaza from receiving essential support and assistance, but also allows Israeli authorities to operate with impunity, shielded from external scrutiny and accountability. By labeling detainees from Gaza as “unlawful combatants”, Israeli authorities justify their detention without trial or due process, denying them the basic legal protections guaranteed to all individuals under international humanitarian law. This classification effectively legitimises the arbitrary detention and mistreatment of these individuals, further exacerbating their already precarious situation.

Many aspects of Israeli policy violate the protections afforded to detainees under the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilian and the Third Geneva Convention’s articles related to Prisoners of War[5], as well as the Convention against Torture and the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Therefore Adalah, HaMoked and PHRI call on European policy makers to urgently address these violations and ensure the protection of detainees’ rights under international law and urge them to: 

  1. Call on Israel to immediately stop the torture and mistreatment, provide adequate food, shelter, hygiene and health care and to provide lists of the Gaza detainees. 
  2. Call on Israel to provide access to the detainees by the ICRC, lawyers and human rights organisations. 
  3. Call on Israel to ensure access to adequate medical care for Palestinians held in Israeli detention facilities in general, and specifically for victims of abuse, torture, and ill-treatment, with the view of bringing it into compliance with its obligation to provide health care to those deprived of liberty equal to that provided to the general population.
  4. Take immediate and concrete measures to put an end to the torture and abuse of Palestinian prisoners and detainees.
  5. Call on Israel to uphold the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment and incorporate it into domestic law in conformity with article 2(2) of the Convention against Torture.


About the author
Ahmed Al Aydi, is volunteering at Broederlijk Delen, one of the Belgian CIDSE members. He is a Palestinian lawyer, human rights activist and researcher and holds a master’s degree in Human Rights and Democracy from the institute of Political Science at Saint Joseph University in Beirut. He works on advocacy and lobbying issues related to children’s rights and has defended and promoted human rights in Palestine and in the Middle East.  

The views expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of CIDSE.

Cover photo:Entrance to Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank, Palestine.
Credit: Ehab Arouri

[1] Adalah Newsletter, 17 April 2024, Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, Torture and ill-treatment in Israeli prisons available at: دفاتر عدالة – عدالة (

[2] HaMoked, 9,088 “Security” Inmates Are Held in Prisons Inside Israel, May 2024, המוקד להגנת הפרט (

[3] Physicians for Human Rights–Israel, PHRI, Report (May 2024).

[4] Urgent Appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Adalah -The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, HaMoked – Center for the Defence of the Individual and Physicians for Human Rights Israel: P.1.

[5] Articles (3,33,42, 76,143).

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