Palestinian Prisoners Day: A call to churches worldwide to pray and act for justice
17 April 2014
Updated 22 April 2014
“The Lord looked at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners” — Psalm 102
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
As the international community observes Palestinian Prisoners Day on 17 April, the World Council of Churches resolutely confirms our solidarity with the nearly 5000 Palestinian men, women and children languishing in Israeli prisons. As people of faith, we are called to pray for, visit and tend to the needs of all prisoners, no matter the reason for their detention. For Israel and Palestine, prisoners have taken on even greater significance than in the past.
We were disappointed when the Government of Israel cancelled the scheduled release of prisoners who were in Israeli jails even before the Oslo Agreement of 1993. In addition to disrupting an already fragile negotiations process, this move deepened heartache for many families, relatives, friends and, indeed, the entire Palestinian people.
Since 1967, close to 750,000 Palestinians have faced detention in Israeli jails. Many are held under arbitrary administrative detention for lengthy periods with no access to quick and fair trial. We observe that Israeli legal systems for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank are separate and unequal. We are concerned by reports of torture and the use of arrest as a political weapon. We are especially concerned about the continuing practice of detaining children.
In solidarity with Palestinian prisoners, I invite our member churches to
- call on UN Member States to insist that Israel end its policy of arbitrary detention and to abide by the standard rules for the treatment of prisoners adopted in 1955.
- ensure that UN Member States are resolute about Israel’s obligation to its commitments to the 4th Geneva Convention, as well as its ratification of human rights conventions.
- ensure that UN Member States persist with pressure on Israel to fulfill its obligations to provide apt medical care to all Palestinian detainees and prisoners in Israeli jails.
- call on the UN Committee Against Torture to ensure that Israel adopts adequate criminal legislation to define and penalize torture, solitary confinement, administrative detention and the detention of children under domestic Israeli law.
In our commemoration of Palestinian Prisoners Day 2014, the World Council of Churches invites the wider ecumenical family to also join churches in the Holy Land in remembering Palestinian prisoners through prayers and acts of solidarity that restore to them their freedom with justice and dignity. The WCC will work and pray for a just and sustainable peace for Palestine and Israel, through the upcoming World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel in September and keep the focus whenever there are obstacles to that peace.
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit,
WCC general secretary