April 17th marks Palestinian Prisoner’s Day when Palestinians raise the cause of political prisoners jailed by Israel and elevate their struggle for freedom and justice. Since the beginning of the occupation, Palestinian students have been detained for engaging in normal civic and political activities such as attending demonstrations, membership of a student association or posting on social media. Recently, Israel has increased targeting of Palestinian students. Today, there are over 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners, of which 250 are students, with 80 from Birzeit University alone. Detention of students causes major psychological harm as well as interrupting their studies. It also damages the wider university community and student movement.

Israel’s detention practices systematically breach international laws and conventions. Palestinians are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, and tried under an unjust and discriminatory military court system. Under ‘Administrative detention’, introduced under British colonial rule, prisoners can be held indefinitely without charge or trial. Torture is routinely used and prisoners are forced to live in inhumane conditions, often denied access to adequate healthcare or education, and visits by friends and relatives. Today, Coronavirus is posing an additional major risk to Palestinian student and other political prisoners in Israel’s jails. The Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Addameer, are calling for the immediate release of all Palestinian political prisoners in Israel to protect them from this immediate threat.

In addition to resisting their detention and harsh conditions through hunger strikes and boycotts of military courts, Palestinian political prisoners keep hope alive by undertaking collective initiatives such as cultural and educational activities.

Please share this blog post widely and help us raise awareness about the detention of students and the struggle of Palestinian political prisoners for freedom and justice, and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.


1) Statistics are the most recent available (March 2020) from Addameerhttps://www.addameer.org/statistics

2) For more on criminalisation of civic and political activities, see: “Born Without Civil Rights: Israel’s Use of Draconian Military Orders to Repress Palestinians in the West Bank”, Human Rights Watch, 17 December 2019.

3) Israel’s policies of arrest and detention systematically violate numerous elements of international law, including but not limited to:

  • Prohibition on transferring prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier (Fourth Geneva Convention)
  • Non-derogable prohibition of torture (Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 5 and UN Convention Against Torture)
  • Prohibition on using administrative detention as a punitive measure (Fourth Geneva Convention)
  • Right to fair trial guarantees (Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 10)
  • Rights of children according to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Right to liberty and the right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 3 & 9). In this case, this violation may also be considered a ‘Crime of Apartheid’ according to the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid

Several of these violations may constitute war crimes.

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