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Head of Palestinian prisoners’ rights group to tour UK


Sahar Francis, General Director of Addameer, about to start UK speaking tour

Palestinian Political Prisoners: The Intersection between International Law and the Palestinian Struggle

UK tour with Sahar Francis, General Director, Addameer
Promoted by JfJfP, LPHR (Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights) and PSC.

For details of tour, see Events Calendar
Contact email for all events: Martial Kurtz on martial.kurtz@palestinecampaign.org

Two interviews with Sahar Francis are below in this posting.

By JfJfP, February 10, 2013

Since 2006, Sahar Francis has been the General Director of Ramallah-based Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, a Palestinian NGO providing legal and advocacy support to Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli and Palestinian prisons. An attorney by training, she joined the association in 1998, first as a human rights lawyer, then as head of the Legal Unit. With over sixteen years of human rights experience, including human rights counseling and representation, Ms. Francis also sits on the Board of Defence for Children International – Palestine Section.


The remains of a computer at Addameer’s office after Israeli occupation forces stole its hard drive in a dawn raid, 11.12.12. See Israeli occupation forces ransack offices of Addameer for story by Ali Abuminah.

The Occupation Continues

Interview with Sahar Francis, chair of Addameer, one of the Palestinian organizations recently raided by the Israeli army.

By Radio Mundo Real (Chilean)
December 2, 2012

There are over 4,500 Palestinian political prisoners. The conditions of their detention are outrageous. They are abused, tortured and have no proper health care. This leads many of them to develop serious illnesses and in some cases to their death.

This is one of the many denunciations about Palestinian political prisoners by Addameer, one of the three organizations that was raided by the Israeli army on Tuesday, 11 December. The Israeli forces also stormed into the headquarters of the Union of Palestinian Women Committees and the Palestinian NGO Network. The reason for this is attributed to the participation of these organizations in the recent World Social Forum Free Palestine.

During the forum, Real World Radio interviewed Sahar Francis, chair of Adameer. Francis exposes several kinds of punishments against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons: solitary confinement for long periods, fines from 50 to 100 US dollars, forbidding family visits. In the case of the Gaza Strip, all the Palestinian prisoners have been forbidden access to their families for 6 years.

Francis, who is a human rights lawyer, said that of these thousands of prisoners only a minority is involved in military activities or in the armed fight. Most of them were captured for political and humanitarian activism. Israel claims that the organizations are linked to groups like Hamas, the Islamic Jihad or Fatah, so they considered them as terrorist organizations. But most of the Palestinian prisoners are people who were fighting against the Israeli wall, against the construction of settlements or who were political activists in their communities. Francis exposes that student unions are considered illegal by Israel, that is why several Palestinian students are imprisoned for one to two years.

The Palestinian political prisoners are tried in Israeli military courts or in civilian courts. According to Francis neither of these systems offers the guarantees of fair trials because they follow military orders “under very discriminatory laws against Palestinians and with very harsh sentences”.

Finally, Sahar Francis expressed her satisfaction with the WSF [World Socia Forum] Free Palestine after learning that many social movements from Latin America, Europe and Africa participated. She said it is a good chance to create strategies around the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS), which is considered as a very strong tool of peaceful resistance that can be done together with the Palestinian people and should not be restricted to the Arab countries.

She also considered the forum as an important opportunity to encourage social movements to lead other actions in their own countries, such as bringing the Israeli war criminals to court or exposing the corporations that are linked to the industry of the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories.


Imprisonment as political pressure: Addameer’s Sahar Francis interviewed

By Adri Nieuwhof The Electronic Intifada
January 08, 2010

The Palestinian nongovernmental organization Addameer was founded in 1992 to promote and protect the rights of political prisoners. The Electronic Intifada interviewed Sahar Francis, a human rights lawyer and the director of Addameer, about the recent repression wave targeting Palestinian human rights activists protesting Israel’s wall in the occupied West Bank. Three activists, Jamal Juma, Abdallah Abu Rahmah and Mohammad Othman, have been detained over the past several months. They join the 8,338 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons that Addameer recorded at the end of 2009. More than 300 detainees are children, 18 are members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and 738 are from Gaza. At least 291 prisoners are held in administrative detention, while 778 prisoners are serving life sentences.

Adri Nieuwhof: Can you talk about Addameer’s work and how you became involved?

Sahar Francis: “Addameer” is Arabic for “conscience.” We offer legal services to Palestinian political prisoners under Israeli occupation. Our organization represents political prisoners in Israel’s military and civil courts. We document and research violations of rights of prisoners, for example, torture, administrative detention and ill-treatment of prisoners in their daily life in prison. Addameer is engaged in campaigns and advocacy work. We publish public statements and urgent appeals on behalf detainees, and we submit reports on the situation of the political prisoners to the UN Human Rights Committee and UN Special Rapporteurs. We participate in national and international NGO [nongovernmental organization] networks. In 1994, I started to practice as a human rights lawyer at the Society of Saint Yves, a Catholic human rights center. I referred cases to Addameer and visited political prisoners as a volunteer for Addameer. In 1998, I joined Addameer as a staff member.

AN: On what grounds are people arrested?

More than 8,000 Palestinian political prisoners are held in Israeli jails. The majority were involved in activities for different political parties and student organizations. Or they were active in their community or in charity work. For example, Israel declared all organizations affiliated with Hamas as illegal through a military order; it did not matter if they were involved in charity or social economic activities. According to the Israeli military courts most Palestinian detainees were involved in what they call activities that are a threat to the security and public order.

AN: How would you characterize the way Israel treats the Palestinian political prisoners?

Of course there is torture, ill treatment and abuse. I would say this happens at all stages: from the first moment of their arrest to their interrogation, then their trial and until they are finally imprisoned. During interrogation detainees can be threatened with the arrest of family members, which sometimes actually happens. The interrogators excessively use blindfolds and handcuffs, and they tie up detainees in painful positions. You can find more information about the torture and ill treatment of Palestinian detainees on our website.

The health conditions in Israeli prisons are very bad. Prisoners who are in jail longer than ten years develop chronic diseases. Sick people don’t get the proper treatment. When detainees have had a heart attack or developed cancer, it takes such a long time before their illness is even diagnosed. The visits of family to the detainees are a problem. In 1995, all of the Palestinian political prisoners were transferred to Israel. This is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Families have to ask the Israeli authorities for a permit to visit their family. The procedures are complex and turn out to be an obstacle to family visits. The prisoners from Gaza have been denied any family visits since June 2007, when Gaza was closed off by Israel.

AN: Do the prisoners or their families receive support?

Yes, the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs financially supports the political prisoners and their families. During the last few years Israel has decreased the rations of food, soap, personal hygiene items and cigarettes. Prisoners depend on the support of their families and have to use small amounts of money from the PA to buy goods in the prison canteen. In fact the PA is indirectly contributing to provide basic needs of the Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. [Author’s note: The Israeli Prison Ordinance regulates the treatment of prisoners. Article 20 states: “The administration is to provide each prisoner, during the regular hours, with sufficient, good quality, well prepared nutritious meals that should maintain the health and strength of the prisoners.]

AN: Can you discuss the recent arrests of Palestinian civil movement leaders?

I think the policy of imprisonment that is used has been the same for a long time. It is used to put more pressure on the people who resist the occupation. The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign and the Stop the Wall have successfully raised a lot of international support. That is why there is a special attack on them. Israel is not happy with this international attention. The BDS and Stop the Wall campaigns inform the public about the occupation, and lead to the demand to end the occupation. Israel is so angry about the success. They want people to pay a high price for their involvement. It is not only imprisonment, but also harassment, house searches, creating problems when traveling abroad. Israel thinks it can break the soul of the people and the movement this way.

AN: Do you see a role for citizens in other countries to support Palestinian political prisoners?

Citizens should be aware that Palestinian political prisoners are not terrorists. That is how Israel tries to define them. Citizens could demand the release of all the Palestinian political prisoners — as a group, without conditions. The political prisoners should not be used as bargaining chips in negotiations. I think we should connect the issue of the Palestinian political prisoners more with the occupation: through BDS campaigns, through campaigns calling to end the occupation and the release of all of the Palestinian political prisoners. Supporting the ending of the occupation, including the issue of the political prisoners, the rights of refugees, our right to self-determination and recognition of East Jerusalem as our capital, that is the way to support the political prisoners. People can also support our specific campaigns on female prisoners, administrative detention, or special cases.

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