The battle over the vaccine in the Israeli Prison Services is moving on to the High Court of Justice: five human rights organizations petitioned this morning (Sunday, 10/1) to the High Court against Public Security Minister Amir Ohana’s decision not to vaccinate prisoners, contrary to the Ministry of Health’s directive. The petition was filed on behalf of ACRI, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Adalah, HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, and Rabbis for Human Rights by ACRI Atty. Anne Suciu and PHR Atty. Tamir Blank.
In the petition, the organizations demand that the Prison Service vaccinate the entire prisoner population according to the vaccination priority set by the Ministry of Health, with an emphasis on prisoners aged 60 and over, and those in high-risk groups. Moreover, the petition demands that the IPS prevent prioritizing the vaccination of prison staff over the prisoners.
The petition was filed this past Friday, after the Minister of Public Security relayed to the Deputy Attorney General, Atty. Amit Marari, that he did not intend to withdraw his directive refusing to vaccinate prisoners at this stage, and to solely vaccinate IPS staff. With this, Minister Ohana rejected the Deputy Attorney General’s directive informing the Minister on Friday that his decision not to vaccinate prisoners “was given without authority, and thus cannot stand.”
The petition was accompanied by a medical opinion from the Association of Public Health Physicians from the Israeli Medical Association, which stated that “prisoners must be treated as a captive population. In the context of COVID-19, this is considered an at-risk population, both due to pre-existing health issues and to the overcrowded conditions that increase the risk of infection and mortality.” According to the Medical Association, “the State of Israel has an ethical obligation to offer the vaccines to the prisoner population.”
“According to professional sources, prisoners are an at-risk population and action must be taken to vaccinate them in parallel with the at-risk populations at large,” the petition states. According to the petitioners, despite these professional opinions, despite the clear instruction given by the Ministry of Health and authorities, despite the availability of the vaccines and despite the legal and moral duty to protect prisoners, the IPS has yet to start vaccinating prisoners to date.
Following the filing of the petition, the State began vaccinating the prisoners and, about two weeks later, the State submitted an update notice that all prisoners who were interested and able to be vaccinated were vaccinated. In total, about 74% of all prisoners received their first shot within these two weeks.
The judges sharply criticized Minister Ohana's decision, which was made without authority, and stressed the importance of protecting the rights of prisoners.
For further information (Hebrew)