Palestinian Political Prisoners

March 1, 2011


Since the occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967, Israel has systematically used arrest and detention as a political instrument to control the population and quell and punish resistance. As a result, Palestinians have been subjected to one of the highest incarceration rates in the world in flagrant violation of international and humanitarian law. The release of these prisoners is vital to the achievement of a just and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to the PA Ministry of Detainees’ Affairs, Israel has detained and imprisoned over 750,000 Palestinians since 1967, the vast majority of them political prisoners. Approximately 420,000 were arrested in the period between 1967 and the beginning of the first Intifada in 1987, 210,000 during the first Intifada (December 1987-1994), and over 70,000 since the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000. During the Oslo years (1994-September 2000), the number of arrests fell considerably. Most Palestinian detainees are considered to be ‘security prisoners’, but, since redefining Gaza as an ‘enemy entity’, Israel also applies the 2002 Illegal Combatants Act to seize Palestinians engaged in acts of hostility against Israel, which includes membership in ‘terrorist’ organizations. Israel is currently holding three ‘illegal combatants’ (rather than ‘security detainees’), who are therefore not entitled to prisoner of war status. The aim of this bulletin is to raise awareness about the issue of Palestinian political prisoners and provide up-to-date information and statistics about their arrest, interrogation and imprisonment, in addition to Israeli violations of international law.