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Palestinian prisoners have no right to social distancing despite coronavirus threat, Israeli court rules

Palestinian prisoners are being denied their human rights [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 July, 2020

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The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that Palestinian prisoners have no right to social distancing.

Israel’s top court has rejected a petition demanding protection for Palestinian prisoners at Gilboa prison from the threat of the coronavirus - such as social distancing - despite an outbreak of the disease at the detention centre.

Currently, 30 prison guards and seven prisoners are infected with the potentially deadly disease, while 489 guards and 58 prisoners are in quarantine in the northern Israeli prison.

Last Thursday, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Palestinian prisoners do not have the right to social distancing as protection against the deadly coronavirus.

Adalah, a human rights group defending Palestinian citizens of Israel, had demanded that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) and the Public Security Ministry take all necessary steps to protect 450 prisoners – overwhelmingly Palestinians – from Covid-19 at the overcrowded Gilboa prison.

The Supreme Court justified its ruling by saying Palestinians held in prison are no different than family members or flatmates living in the same home.

Adalah accused the court of "completely ignoring the fact that prisoners are held under duress and Israeli authorities are responsible for their health and the conditions of their incarceration".

"The court ruling has freed the IPS from the obligation to maintain, and or even strive for, safe social distancing in the cells of Palestinian 'security prisoners'. This runs contrary to basic Covid-19 health practices employed by prison authorities around the world," Adalah added in a statement.

Adalah Attorney Myssana Morany, who submitted the petition on behalf of the families of two Palestinian prisoners, said Israel chose to "accept fiction" in its ruling against Palestinian prisoners.

"Israel’s Supreme Court has chosen to accept the fiction pitched to it by Israeli authorities that Covid-19 social distancing policies – essential for everyone else – are not relevant to the Palestinian 'security prisoners' it holds behind bars," she said.

"This precedent-setting ruling endangers the lives and health of Palestinians held by Israel – and poses a threat to society as a whole. It flies in the face of health and human rights professionals around the world who have called for social distancing within prisons, and leaves Palestinians held by Israel exposed to the virus with no option to protect themselves," she added.

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