On 18 April 2012, the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) marked Palestinian Prisoners’ Day with a cultural program held at the ‘Haq’ Youth Movement’s Youth House (Beit Al Shababi), featuring legal experts’ lectures and outstanding artistic performances.
Ahmed Abu Ahmed, a member of the ‘Haq’ Youth Movement, inaugurated the evening with a speech, noting that the meeting falls within their monthly events intended to spread the culture of human rights and the national identity among the youth. After inviting the participants to sing the song ‘Mawtini’ (My Home Land, Palestinian National Anthem), he welcomed Mohammad Zeidan, director-general of the HRA.
Mohammad Zeidan spoke about the issue of prisoners with regard to its human rights aspect, especially vis-à-vis international humanitarian law and, in particular, Geneva Conventions. Citing various international conventions, Mohammad Zeidan described the development of international law and international standards for the protection of the rights of prisoners and detainees. He emphasized that Israel violated these conventions not only through the arrest of political activists but also the absence of a fair trial as well as abysmal conditions of detentions, which contravenes international standards. Mohammad Zeidan also pointed out the difficulties that Palestinian prisoners confront such as denial of family visit, administrative detention, overcrowded cells and absence of hygienic conditions, among others. These oppressive measures, including the denial of access to education during the period of captivity and other forms of persecution and abuses, lead prisoners to declare a hunger strike and their willingness to become a martyr for their rights and dignity.
Ms. Janan Abdu Makhul, an activist in the issue of prisoner, spoke about her experience as a wife of a political prisoner, Amir Makhul serving a ten-year sentence. She stressed that, during her husband’s detention and interrogation, the court, contrary to the due process of law, denied access to the inculpatory evidence; his attorney was obliged to defend him against the secret evidence in sealed files. Ms. Janan Abdu Makhul also drew attention to prisoners’ struggle and the current hunger strike for their basic rights of human dignity. “The prison administration is working to kill prisoners’ human spirit and isolate them from the rest of the world. It must not be condoned.” She added, addressing to the young audience, that hunger strike and willingness to die for their cause is the only choice prisoners are left with. But the primary battle should take place outside of prison, and that young people and society as a whole are able to organize events supporting the struggle of prisoners. She called on the youth to regularly participate in these events throughout the year, not just in special events such as Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.
The HRA presented a short documentary film, ‘The Baby is Innocent’, which gave attention to a boy born in prison, whose mother was imprisoned during her pregnancy. The film presented the suffering experienced by a Palestinian female inmate and shed light on the extent of deprivation inflicted upon the mother behind bars: complete absence of essentials to raise a child.
At the end of the program, Shahad Shahade, a rising singer and a member of ‘Haq’ sang a collection of patriotic songs, with accompaniment played by Khader Shama and ‘Haq’ musical band, a group created within the youth education activities of the HRA. They impressed the audience with their extraordinary performance and songs related to the theme of the event.