Next week marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday that celebrates liberation and freedom. But for too many people here and around the world, the struggle for freedom and liberty is far from over. We are still fighting for so many of the rights we thought we had secured decades ago.
Holot, a holding facility which currently holds about 5,000 asylum seekers, sits in the middle of Israel’s Negev desert, far from any cities or towns. Those held in Holot, people who had fled from the Sudan and from Eretria, suffer from overcrowded conditions, a ban on bringing in personal items, a lack of educational activities, and extremely limited services provided by the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority. This week, in response to the petitions ACRI filed in 2016 with partnering organizations, the High Court compelled the State to give reasons why the Court should not rule in favor of the petitioners and demanded from the State to reveal further information.
In the West Bank, Palestinian detainees are also struggling for basic liberties. Last week, the State responded to a 2010 ACRI petition, notifying the High Court that it intends to further shorten certain detention periods set in the military court system in the West Bank. While this is a success, the two legal systems remain a central component of Israel’s rule over the occupied territories, where Palestinians and Israelis are subject to different laws and court systems.
We are also continuing our legal battle to safeguard the dignity of all prisoners held in the Israeli Prison System, by demanding minimal prison space per inmate. Overcrowding has become an epidemic, as prisoners in Israel barely have the space to stretch their arms.
Upholding the freedom and dignity of all people, regardless of their background and identity, is key to safeguarding human rights. We are reminded: “You shall not wrong nor oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
For those of you celebrating Passover, I wish you a season of liberation and freedom.
Adv. Sharon Abraham-Weiss
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel