On April 17 every year, Palestinian Prisoner’s Day is commemorated to highlight the plight of those held in Israeli jails and their struggle for freedom against the Israeli occupation.
Over the course of 2021, the Israeli military arrested nearly 8,000 Palestinians, including more than 1,300 minors and 184 women.
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Israeli authorities also issued more than 1,500 administrative detention orders – holding Palestinians without charge or trial, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer.
As of April 10, 2022, there were 4,450 Palestinians held in Israeli jails in Israel and the occupied territory.
For Palestinians, they are political prisoners fighting to end Israel’s illegal occupation. Of those:
- 530 are held without charge or trial
- 160 are children
- 32 are women
- 549 are serving life sentences
- 499 are serving a sentence of more than 20 years
Child prisoners – Ahmad Manasra’s case
Israel is the only country in the world that tries children in military courts, often denying them their basic rights.
The Israeli army has imprisoned more than 12,000 Palestinian children since 2000, according to Addameer.
Most of these children were charged with “throwing stones”, a crime punishable under military law by up to 20 years in prison.
Currently, 160 Palestinian children remain in Israeli prisons, most are in pre-trial detention and have not been convicted of any offence.
One of the most harrowing child prisoner cases is that of Ahmad Manasra who was arrested at the age of 13, brutally interrogated and then sentenced.
After six years served on his sentence, and six months of detention prior, he has only just turned 21.
Ahmad was with his cousin Hassan, who allegedly stabbed two Israeli settlers near an Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem in 2015.
Hassan, who was 15 at the time, was shot and killed by an Israeli civilian, while Ahmad was severely beaten by an Israeli mob and run over by a car.
He suffered fractures to his skull and internal bleeding.
At the time, Israeli law stated that children under 14 could not be held criminally responsible.
To circumvent this, Israeli authorities waited until Manasra turned 14 to sentence him. The law was changed in August 2016 to allow the prosecution of younger children.
Ahmad was charged with attempted murder and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The sentence was later reduced to nine years.
Ahmad has long suffered mental health issues. At the end of 2021, a psychiatrist from Doctors Without Borders was allowed to visit him and diagnosed him with schizophrenia. This was the first time an external doctor was allowed to see him.
In spite of Ahmad’s mental health issues and diagnoses, he has been held in solitary confinement for the past five months.
Israeli forces have shot and killed at least eight Palestinian children since the start of 2022.
Administrative detainees – held without charge or trial
There are currently 530 Palestinians in “administrative detention” – held without charge or trial.
The detainees, including women and children, can be held by the military for renewable six-month periods based on “secret evidence” that neither the detainee nor their lawyer is allowed to see.
According to international law, an occupying state is prohibited from transferring and holding prisoners outside the occupied territory, but Israel does this with a number of prisons within its borders.
Over the years, many detainees have gone on hunger strike as a non-violent protest against their detention.