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  • ACRI

Translating the Orders and Procedures of the Israel Prison Service to Arabic

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ACRI, Physicians for Human Rights and HaMoked petitioned to the High Court on 24.3.2021 demanding that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) translates all the orders and procedures it publishes to Arabic, and makes them accessible to the detainees and prisoners, as well as the public, in the same way that orders and procedures are currently published and made accessible in Hebrew.

The commands and procedures of the IPS set forth the duties and rights of prisoners, and are essential to the everyday functioning of prisons. Despite the fact that 60% of prisoners in Israeli prisons and jails are Arab, most of whom are residents of the Occupied Territories, the orders and procedures are available exclusively in Hebrew. In response to appeals from our organizations prior to filing the petition, the IPS explained that it refuses to translate its orders and commands to Arabic since it is not legally obligated to, and that the Nation-State Bill absolves it from translating documents to Arabic as doing so is not expliciated in the law.

According to the petitioners, the lack of Arabic translation makes it so that Arabic-speaking prisoners do not have access to the information and rules that impact every aspect of their daily lives in prison, and which have significant consequences on their lives and most basic rights. Attorney Abir Bachar - Public and Private Defender, Attorney Nadia Dakka of HaMoked, and Anat Litwin - Director of the Prisoners & Detainees Department at Physicians for Human Rights, emphasized the importance of the translations and accessibility of procedures, and the damage caused to Arab prisoners due to their absence.

The petition also argued that the rights of Arab prisoners and detainees to information in Arabic - their mother tongue and everyday language - is part of their rights to information, access to the courts, and equality. The organizations argued that it is the duty of every public authority to translate the procedures by which it operates, including the duty to make those accessible to the population which they directly affect, and therefore mandates the IPS to translate its procedures to Arabic. Additionally, the petition argued that the right of Arab prisoners to receive the procedures in Arabic is further justified considering the fact that they are held in extreme isolation far away from the family, community and information sources that they normally rely on, and are fully subordinated to the custody of the IPS.

In the IPS response from August 2021, it was stated that the Minister of Internal Security had decided that only some of the IPS orders, concerning the duties and rights of prisoners, would be gradually translated into Arabic, and that the possibility of translating IPS procedures would continue to be examined. Following this response, we informed the court our position that all orders and procedures must be translated into Arabic.

On October 7, 2021, the High Court deleted the petition following the Ministry of Internal Security's commitment to translate the orders and to further examine the translation of the procedures.

HCJ 2111/21


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