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Families of jailed Palestinians call on UN chief to hold Israel accountable for violations

Aug. 30, 2017 11:30 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 30, 2017 6:39 P.M.)
Latifa Muhammad Naji Abu Hmeid pictured with her four sons (File)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres met with a number of Palestinians whose relatives have either been slain or imprisoned by Israeli forces during the UN chief’s first visit to the occupied Palestinian territory since he assumed the role.

Also in attendance of the meeting on Tuesday was Secretary-General of the PLO Saeb Erekat, head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe, and Palestine Ambassador to United Nations Riyad Mansour, according to a statement released by the prisoners’ committee.

Representatives of the families demanded that Guterres undertake serious measures to save the lives of the more than 6,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

They highlighted that Palestinians, including women and children, are subject to “dangerous Israeli violations of prisoners’ rights,” such as deliberate medical neglect and administrative detention, Israel’s widely-condemned policy of internment without trial or charge based on undisclosed evidence.

Mother of underage Palestinian prisoner Shadi Farah -- who was just 12-years-old when he was detained in 2015 -- stressed the debilitating psychological effects that detention has on the some 320 children being held in Israeli custody. She deplored Israeli forces for depriving children their right to education, adequate medical care, and the right to play and be children.

The brother of slain Palestinian Raed Jaber, whose body has been held in an Israeli “cemetery of numbers” since 2011, also attended the meeting. The prisoners’ committee's statement denounced Israel’s practice of withholding the bodies of Palestinians as a violation of international law.

Qaraqe, who previously expressed outrage over Guterres’ visit with the families of Israelis held by Hamas in the besieged Gaza Strip, called for holding a session at the United Nations General Assembly regarding Israeli violations of the rights of Palestinian prisoners.

In a letter written by Erekat to Guterres, the PLO chief said that “The Palestinian people, who have been objectified by an ongoing Nakba and policies of ethnic cleansing, killing, and detention due to the Israeli occupation, are reaching out to you and to the entire free world to lift the historical injustice imposed against Palestinians, to enable them to gain their freedom, which starts with the freedom of all prisoners from the darkness of (Israeli) jails.”

Erekat went on to call upon Guterres to “guarantee the right to freedom, the right to return, and the right to self-determination as natural rights for a people under occupation. The time has come for the Palestinian people to achieve independence and to restore humane and national dignity like the rest of people of the world.”

According to the prisoners’ committee, Guterres said that he understands the suffering of Palestinian prisoners and that he will work with the competent authorities to bring an end to their suffering.

The meeting was also attended by Latifa Abu Hmeid, the mother of four Palestinians who are each serving multiple life sentences in Israeli prison; the mother of prisoner Muhammad Ibrash; and the mother of Malak al-Ghalith, who was 14-years old when she was detained earlier this year.

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