(Haifa, Israel) On 14 May 2012, the Knesset passed a new amendment to the law governing the Israel Prison Service (IPS), according to which the IPS Director will be able to limit the number of lawyers visiting prisoners convicted of security offenses as a group, or to prisoners individually. This restriction may be imposed when there is reason to believe that the meeting will harm state security, public security, or discipline within the prison.
Under the new law, the IPS Director may restrict the number of lawyers able to visit a prisoner for a period of three months, and to extend the period for an additional three months with the permission of the Attorney General. The law also allows the District Court to extend the period of prohibition for up to six months at a time, without examination of any evidence against the prisoner or the group.
Adalah sent a letter to the members of Knesset on 13 May 2012 calling on them to reject the proposed bill. In the letter, Adalah Attorney Rima Ayoub emphasized that the proposed amendment ignores the fact that prisoners, as with all individuals, sometimes need to consult with more than one lawyer, or that different lawyers represent them on different cases. In many cases, multiple lawyers will be working as partners or employees of the same firm, or members of the same association. The law imposes unreasonable restrictions on the prisoners and their lawyers, in addition to the strong limitations already placed on security prisoners' lawyers in the current system. Security-classified prisoners are banned from using the telephone, so their lawyers must visit in person more frequently than criminal- classified prisoners. According to Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organization, as of 1 May 2012, there were 4,653 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centers, including 308 administrative detainees, 7 women and 218 children.
The law is a broad and sweeping violation of the prisoners' fundamental constitutional rights to consult with and be represented by a lawyer, and affects their right to a fair trial. It also infringes on the lawyer's constitutional rights to freedom to work, dignity, and good reputation.