On the eve of the prisoner exchange deal: 477 Palestinians (1st installment) for Gilad Shalit

According to a report in Haaretz, here, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal and deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk “are expected in Egypt later Monday, to welcome the 40 prisoners whose release Israel has conditioned upon deportation from the Palestinian territories“.

Earalier, Haaretz reported in another story that “the spokesperson for the military wing of Hamas, Abu Obeida, said on Monday that Israeli and Egyptian representatives would meet once a year in order to estimate the status of the 40 prisoners due to be deported overseas. Abu Obeida said that, according to the deal’s terms, some of the deportees will return to the West Bank following several years abroad. He also said that Israel at first demanded that 260 Palestinian prisoners be deported, a number which Hamas narrowed down to the final 40. The Hamas official also claimed that each and every of those scheduled to be deported has agreed to the move, as well as their respective families. He claimed Hamas was successful in receiving 90% of its demands”. This is reported here.

However, Ma’an News Agency reported here that “In a statement relayed by his lawyer Elias Sabagh, [prominent Fatah prisoner Marwan] Barghouti said he had learned of the deal from media reports. Prison leaders — including Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine secretary-general Ahmad Saadat — were not involved in negotiations, Barghouti said. Further, prisoners who will be exiled under the agreement were not informed of the decision. Over 200 prisoners will not be released to their homes, but will be deported to Gaza or abroad”.

The list of Palestinian prisoners who are being released in this first installment of the two-part deal to free a total of 1027 Palestinians, in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, is posted on the website of the Israeli Prison Service, here.

The Israeli Prison Service website notes that:
– “Prisoners number 1 to 131 on the list will return to their home in the Gaza Strip.
– Prisoners 132 to 186 will return to their home in Judea & Samaria [the West Bank] or in East Jerusalem.
– Prisoners 187 to 241 will return to their home in Judea & Samaria [the West Bank] or in East Jerusalem subject to restrictions, as specified in the agreement.
– Prisoners 242 to 281 will be sent abroad.
– Prisoners 282 to 299 will be sent to the Gaza Strip for three years.
– Prisoners 300 to 444 will be sent to the Gaza Strip.
– Prisoners 445 to 450 will return to their home in Israel.
– Prisoners (female) 451 to 477 will return to their home in Judea & Samaria, in the Gaza Strip and in East Jerusalem, except prisoner 473, who will be sent to Jordan, and prisoner 474, who will be sent to the Gaza Strip”.

Only 27 out of some 35 or so female prisoners are being released.

The Defence for Children International [DCI] organization noted here, that no children, none, are being released in this first installment — contrary to initial reports and expectations. According to DCI-Palestine, there are 164 Palestinian children now in Israeli jails [and notes that “seventy-six of these children have been sentenced, whilst 88 children are being held in pre-trial detention”], while ADDAMEER has listed 176 Palestinian child prisoners.

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem lists its statistics here.

Two Palestinian human rights organizations issued a statement Tuesday to highlight their concerns and condemn those aspects of the deal that are fundamentally at odds with international law”.

Sahar Francis, Director of one of the groups, the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, noted that “of the first 477 prisoners to be released, 205 of them will not be reunited with their families as their release has been made contingent on their deportation or transfer, both of which are in violation of international law. Of the West Bank prisoners, including East Jerusalemites, 18 will be transferred to the Gaza Strip for a period of three years while an additional 146 will be forcibly relocated there on a permanent basis. A further 41 prisoners, including one woman, will be deported outside of the oPt, to as-of-yet unknown third countries”.

She said that this exile, whether in Gaza or in other countries, “effectively serves as an extension of their previous isolation from their homeland and families and in many cases can be seen as a second prison sentence”, and added that “These terms violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits forcible transfers and deportations of protected persons, a proscription that is part of customary international humanitarian law. Unlawful deportation or transfer also constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention (GC IV) and qualifies as one of the most serious war crimes. Given the stark asymmetry in power, resulting from the belligerent occupation, between the Palestinian and Israeli parties involved, neither the potential ‘consent’ of the prisoners nor the fact that the deal was negotiated by a Palestinian authority can serve as justification for the deportations as this contravenes the spirit of articles 7, 8 and 47 of the GC IV concerning the inviolability of the protections afforded by the Convention”.

The statement, also signed by Shawan Jabarin, Director of Al-Haq, added that “These political prisoners—arrested on the basis of Israeli military orders that criminalize any form of opposition to the occupation; tried by Israeli military tribunals that do not conform to international due process standards or held in administrative detention without charge or trial; and imprisoned in harsh and illegal detention conditions that have recently led them to launch an open-ended hunger strike—are entitled to justice. Before the attention they have received as a result of the exchange deal wanes, it is imperative to demand a fair and permanent resolution to their plight, in the form of unconditional release, in compliance with international humanitarian law”.

What will happen if the ICRC interviews these released prisoner who are supposed to be sent into exile, and asks them if they agree — but they say No? Will they be returned to prison?

Deportation is also a very grave violation of Phase One of the Road Map, adopted in 2003 by the Quartet [U.S., E.U., Russia, and the UN] which both Israel and the Palestinians are [or were] supposed to fulfill…

But Hamas has not accepted the Road Map.

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