Report: In 2020, Israel Detained 4636 Palestinians, Including 543 Minors, 128 Women

Society, Addameer for Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights, and Wadi Hilweh Information Center, said in their joint report on the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails by the end of 2020 that the number of Palestinian prisoners in Israel is about 4400, including 40 women, 170 minors, and 26 held since before the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993.

They said 380 Palestinians are still held in administrative detention, while four prisoners have died of illness this year while incarcerated.

A total of 543 prisoners are serving various life terms, including five who were sentenced to life in prison in 2020, and one prisoner, Abdullah Barghouti, serving 67 life terms.

The report said some 700 prisoners are considered ill, among them 300 who are chronically ill and 10 of them, including 81-year-old Fouad Shoubaki, the oldest prisoner, have cancer and are in need of special medical treatment.

Israel is also keeping the bodies of eight prisoners who died while in prison and refuses to release them to their families for burial, but instead keeps them to use them as a bargaining chip in future deals with the Palestinians.

Israel enraged by French human rights prize

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What House of Rothschild didn’t anticipate seventy years on.

France has honored Al-Haq and B’Tselem with the prestigious Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

This came despite heavy pressure from Israel on the French government to pull the award from the two groups which document Israeli war crimes and abuses against Palestinians.

French justice minister Nicole Belloubet did however give in to the pressure and refused to attend the award ceremony in Paris last Monday.

The French Israel lobby group CRIF wrote to Belloubet alleging that the two winners “call for the boycott of Israel,” and claimed that for the French justice ministry to give them the award “even in the absence of the minister, is insulting justice.”

In his acceptance speech, B’Tselem executive director Hagai El-Ad characterized the Israeli government’s response as “hysterical.”

El-Ad said that Israel’s attempt to pressure French officials “illustrates the reality within which we work: propaganda, lies, and threats by a government which believes that silencing and coverup will enable further human rights violations.”

Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin told The Electronic Intifada that the award is a recognition his group’s work at a time when the organization is being targeted by Israeli smear campaigns.

The 10 December award ceremony coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Furious response

Israel reacted with fury to the announcement that France was giving the prestigious prize to the two groups.

“France gives its highest award to B’Tselem and Al-Haq, organizations that accuse Israel of apartheid, delegitimize us internationally, defend terror and support BDS,” Michael Oren, Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy, claimed

BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions – a nonviolent Palestinian-led campaign to hold Israel accountable for violating Palestinian rights, modeled on the successful international solidarity movement that helped end apartheid in South Africa.

Israel’s embassy in France tweeted it was “shocked” at the award and alleged that Al-Haq is linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a political party and resistance organization Israel deems a “terrorist” group.

Israeli culture minister Miri Regev said that B’Tselem and its members should feel “ashamed,” describing the prize as a “badge of shame.”

Israeli deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely called the award “deplorable” and asked the French government to reconsider.

Hotovely claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also expressed his opposition in a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Mark Regev

Closing space

Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin spoke to The Electronic Intifada in The Hague, a few days before traveling to Paris for the award ceremony.

He said that the award came at a moment when Israel is “trying to close the space” for human rights work.

The French recognition means even more to Al-Haq, he said, because it “comes on the same day as the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Jabarin said that the award was “for the victims in Palestine” and was “recognition of their rights.”

But he cautioned that victims need much more than symbolic recognition.

“France needs to act according to its obligations,” he said, referring to international treaties it has signed on human rights.

Time for action

Seven decades since the Nakba – the expulsion of the Palestinians – and after 51 years of military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Jabarin said, “nothing has changed, the situation is deteriorating, the occupation is deepening, the suffering is deepening.”

Jabarin’s message to the French government is that “if they really want to have peace in Palestine and elsewhere, they have to act.”

To change the reality, Jabarin said there must be sanctions on Israel, including the banning of trade in settlement products and an arms embargo.

Europeans should not “let the criminals travel to their countries,” Jabarin added.

“Without the criminals paying the price of their crimes, there’s no way to rethink or to change their actions and policies.”

ICC leaning toward Israeli narrative?

Jabarin also expressed disappointment in the International Criminal Court, which since 2015 has been carrying out a “preliminary examination” of alleged Israeli war crimes against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“This is a long time,” Jabarin said.

A preliminary examination is the first step in the court’s process to determine whether to open a formal investigation, which can then lead to charges and trials.

But while a preliminary examination is carried out whenever a referral is made, it is open-ended and can continue for years, at the discretion of the chief prosecutor.

Although Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor, warned Israeli leaders last April that they could face trial for the killings of unarmed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the Great March of Return, the court has not launched a formal investigation.

The “victims, the people who are suffering, they can’t wait anymore,” Jabarin said. “This institution has to act according to its mandate and not to deal with things from a political point of view.”

Jabarin called the court’s latest annual progress report disappointing.

The report affirms that “the prosecutor intends to complete the preliminary examination as early as possible,” but provides no firm deadline.

Jabarin described the report as “messy’ in its use of legal terminology and concepts. He is worried that the prosecutor has slipped in “the direction of the Israeli narrative.”

But he sees “good signs here and there.”

He hopes the prosecutor will move swiftly to open a formal investigation and “go after the criminals and later on issue arrest warrants.”

“I trust the professionalism and independence of the prosecutor,” Jabarin said. “My message to her is that time flies and suffering continues. It is time for her to proceed.”

Mexico Arrests Ex-Chief of Israeli, US-Trained Elite Unit Over Disappearances

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Benjamin Netanyahu with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto

Israelis trained Civil Force officials.

A former high level police officer from the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz was arrested Wednesday over charges of “forced disappearances” during his tenure as the head of an elite unit called Civil Force, which has received training from U.S. and Israeli agencies.

Federal and state agents captured Roberto González Meza, former director of the Civil Force of Veracruz, an elite unit that included 2,000 highly trained agents during the administration of Governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa between 2010 and 2016. Duarte himself is in prison and faces charges related to organized crime and money laundering.

Official documents from both federal and state prosecutors show that in the state of Veracruz, where violence is widespread due to warring drug cartels, a total of 145 cases of “forced disappearances” have been investigated where police officers of various levels of government are allegedly involved, between 2013 and 2016.

Meza is accused of ordering the elite unit to carry out many of the forced disappearances, local media reported and added that he has already appeared before a judge in his home state.

The Civil Force includes 2,000 agents who receive specialization and training courses from the several Mexican military agencies as well as institutions in countries such as Canada, United States, Spain, France, Guatemala, Israel, Italy and Czech Republic, local media reports.

Among the unit’s essential tasks is the fight against organized crime groups, the containment and reduction of common crimes, and the assistance to the population in cases of natural disasters.

Local media also reported that José Nabor Nava Holguín, the unit’s former sub-secretary of operations, was arrested among other former agents.

The news comes as activists and critics of the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto say the newly approved Internal Security Law will bring more militarization and impunity to the country’s police forces while giving the army more role in civilian affairs.