17 April 2011

Narratives Behind Locked Doors (7)

Restrictive Family Visitation Rights for West Bank Prisoners- the Case of Amal Fayez Juma'a

Amal Fayez Juma'a, 39, was arrested on 4 May 2004 and is currently serving an 11-year sentence at Damon prison in Haifa. Her brother Jameel, 43, told PCHR about the circumstances of her arrest: "We were asleep when the soldiers came at around 1:30am. When they knocked on our door, we did not open at first. Amal tried to escape, but the house was surrounded and there were snipers everywhere. All the soldiers were hooded and holding various weapons and electronic equipment. When they arrested Amal, we knew they had found what they were looking for. Then the soldiers began breaking all the glass and other things throughout the house. They also went into the children's bedrooms and woke them up, pointing their weapons at them. The children were horrified. It was complete terror, the sound of bullets and bombs inside the house."

"The following day, the army came back and invaded Al Askar and New Askar refugee camp and imposed a curfew." Jameel was detained and pressured to deliver information to the Israeli military. He says: "A soldier slammed my head into the wall – I suffered from internal bleeding in my head from this. Later, one officer threatened to demolish my home and to kill me if I didn't agree to work with them, in other words, to become a traitor. When I refused, they threatened to rape my sister, whom they had arrested. When I answered him this way, I was sure that Amal would be strong and would defend herself from rape."

For years, the family was only to see Amal very rarely and heard little about her situation in prison, until they received bad news. "In 2007, we learned that Amal had gotten cervical cancer and had continuous internal bleeding. From that moment, I started to work hard on getting help or finding a solution, because we were worried about her and knew her health condition was very bad. We approached several organizations and in addition to them, many individual people helped us, too. Many other organizations from all over the world and many delegates visited us and worked with us. Thank god, her situation is better now. But she is still very ill; if you look at her photo, you will see how much weight she has lost, she also lost her teeth. She got Myopia and she also has great difficulty walking. The prison administration used to give her a kind of medicine that caused hallucinations. And when they take her to the hospital, her hand and legs are chained to the bed they put her on."

What is most upsetting to Jameel is that he is not informed about his sister's condition on a regular basis: "We, as her family, are not allowed to know about her case." Personal visits of their sick sister are also rarely allowed: "Coincidentally, my sister and I recently got a permit to visit Amal at the same time, so we visited her two months ago, but it is not a permanent permit. For 'security reasons' we are only allowed to visit her once per year - and even that permission was only granted after we got a lot of outside help from human rights organizations. Both of her parents and oldest brother are deceased. And, our other brother is disabled so he has never visited Amal."

According to information provided to PCHR by the ICRC, the Israeli prison authorities do not share information on security classifications of prisoners, but generally the higher the security risk attributed to the prisoner, the rarer permitted family visits are. Although there is no hard and fast rule, low-security prisoners can usually expect one visit every six months. Medium-security prisoners are permitted one visit per year, and high-security prisoners are often not allowed any visitors.

Jameel appears to have lost hope in the face of the obstacles his family has faced. "After all of this, I came to the conclusion that Israel only does what it wants to do, and no one can force Israel to do anything. We have great faith in god, and hope that all the female prisoners will be released. We hope Amal will be released in the Shalit Deal. We, the Palestinians, have one Israeli prisoner – Shalit – and the entire world demands that he is released, but they forget that Israel has thousands of Palestinian prisoners."

Source: Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), 17 April 2011

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