Israeli minister blocks COVID-19 vaccinations for Palestinian prisoners; demand to overturn decision

In light of the Israeli Public Security Minister Amir Ohana directive preventing Palestinians detained by Israel from receiving vaccinations, in violation of mandatory Health Ministry guidelines, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter to senior Israeli officials late yesterday demanding they act to immediately reverse the decision to block Palestinians designated by Israel as "security prisoners" from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Adalah General Director Attorney Hassan Jabareen sent a letter to Ohana and Israel Prison Service /IPS/ Chargé d'Affairs Asher Vaknin demanding that they move to revoke Ohana’s decision to prevent Palestinian prisoners from being vaccinated.

Jabareen also called on Israel to refrain from infringing upon the health and human rights of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli facilities, as authorities have been doing on a consistent basis since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

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Ohana had ordered the vaccination of Israeli prison workers only.

When Israeli lawmaker Moshe Arbel queried Ohana about state violations of the rights of all those being held prisoner by Israel, Ohana clarified that his directives were to block vaccinations from "security prisoners" – which is how Israel refers to Palestinian prisoners.

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Israel’s Health Ministry had earlier sent a letter to the Public Security Ministry directing that vaccinations must be provided to those in high-risk groups and to individuals over the age of 60, specifying that the IPS must vaccinate prisoners under its care in accordance with these standards.

Adalah stressed that the Israeli Public Security Ministry’s directive to exclude Palestinian "security prisoners" from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine constitutes a violation of the prisoners' health and medical rights and, similarly, violates Israeli Health Ministry instructions as well as professional medical ethics which guarantee equal treatment for all.

The letter further emphasized that it should not be necessary to remind the Public Security Ministry and the IPS of its mandated responsibility to protect the lives and health of prisoners in accordance with Israel’s Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom, which states that "All persons are entitled to protection of their life, body and dignity." Article 11 of the same law specifies that "All governmental authorities are bound to respect the rights under this Basic Law".

In addition, international law and human rights treaties signed by Israel obligate its state authorities to provide medical care for prisoners.

Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen commented: "Israeli Public Security Minister Amir Ohana’s decision to exclude Palestinian prisoners from receiving COVID-19 vaccinations is racist. This is a violation of prisoners’ basic and medical rights and of international laws and conventions which Israel is obligated to uphold.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Israeli authorities have violated the medical and human rights of prisoners during the COVID-19 outbreak." M.K.


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