[Pnews] Treatment of Palestinian hunger strikers raises concern among rights organizations

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon May 8 10:25:41 EDT 2017


On April 17, 2017, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, over 1,000 Palestinian 
prisoners launched a hunger strike in protest against their severe 
conditions of incarceration and other violations of their human rights. 
Their demands comply with international human rights and humanitarian 
law, and echo those calls made in previous hunger strikes, including the 
mass hunger strike launched in 2012. Nevertheless, since the declaration 
of the strike, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) has taken various 
punitive actions against the hunger-strikers, including placing 
prisoners in solitary confinement and preventing them from meeting with 
lawyers.

On 4 May 2017, the IPS was compelled by the Israeli Supreme Court, 
following a petition, to grant permission to lawyers to meet the 
hunger-strikers; this decision is currently being monitored by human 
rights organizations. These measures stand in direct contradiction of 
the 2016 Concluding Observations of the UN Committee Against Torture 
(CAT), which has called on Israel to “guarantee that persons deprived of 
liberty who engage in hunger strikes are never subjected to 
ill-treatment or punished for engaging in a hunger strike” (para. 27).

The hunger strikers’ demands cover a wide range of issues, including:

● Family visits, including the denial by Israel of entry permits to 
family members from Gaza and the West Bank. The hunger-strikers demand 
to increase the frequency and duration of visits, and remove various 
restrictions, e.g. the regular taking of photographs

Although visits are currently permitted, the IPS limits them to only two 
45-minute visits per month. Family members from Gaza, as well as some 
from the West Bank, have been denied entry permits and therefore have 
been prevented from visiting their relatives in prison. In addition, the 
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has recently reduced the 
support it provides for family visits. As a result, large numbers of 
prisoners and their families are not able to complete these two short 
visits per month. The right for prisoners to maintain a family life is 
enshrined both in international and domestic Israeli law, while the 
Geneva Conventions emphasize the importance of frequent visitation.

● Access to medical care

The quality and range of healthcare services available to prisoners held 
in Israeli prisons and detention facilities are considerably lower than 
those provided to the general population in Israel. Further, the IPS and 
the Ministry of Internal Security administers the health care system in 
prisons, rather than the Ministry of Health. Extremely long waiting 
times to see specialist physicians are standard and few periodic medical 
examinations are available. Certain treatments such as physiotherapy or 
treatments for hepatitis that are supposed to be available, according to 
the IPS’s own regulations, cannot be accessed in practice because of 
budget limitations. Prisoners classified as “security” prisoners by the 
IPS are additionally hampered by their inability to complain about 
medical neglect: they are not allowed to use a telephone or send 
letters, and many do not receive regular visits by family members or 
lawyers. Their isolation prevents them from informing external actors 
about complaints relating to their medical condition and other 
violations of their human rights.

● Solitary confinement

Israeli law allows for prisoners to be held in solitary confinement, 
including in circumstances that are not technically termed solitary 
confinement, but replicate its conditions. Although the Mandela Rules - 
the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners - issued in 
2015, affirmed that the use of solitary confinement for more than 15 
consecutive days violates international law, the partial data that 
Israel has published on the matter (and which relates only to one 
mechanism of solitary confinement) indicates that it routinely uses 
solitary confinement for much longer periods of time. According to data 
released by the IPS in July 2015, 63 prisoners – accounting for 54% of 
all prisoners being held in solitary confinement at that time – had been 
held in solitary confinement for six months or more. Of these, nine were 
being held under an IPS “separation order” that is used for the claimed 
purpose of “protecting state security”, often based on secret evidence.

The CAT concluded that Israel should ensure “that solitary confinement 
and [isolation] are used only in exceptional cases as a measure of last 
resort, for as short a time as possible and subject to independent 
review, in line with international standards” (CAT, 2016 Concluding 
Observations, para. 25).

● Administrative detention

The latest figures, from March 2017, indicate that Israel is holding 688 
Palestinians in administrative detention. International law permits the 
use of administrative detention only in exceptional cases. However, this 
is clearly not the case in Israel, where the number of administrative 
detainees has more than tripled since December 2012, when Israel was 
holding only 178 Palestinians in administrative detention. The CAT 
recently urged Israel to “end the practice of administrative detention” 
(CAT, 2016 Concluding Observations, para. 23)

The undersigned human rights organizations emphasize that the prisoners’ 
demands are just, reasonable, and grounded in international law and 
agreements governing the treatment of prisoners and detainees. They 
further stress the dangers associated with the IPS’s punitive measures 
taken against the hunger strikers. The organizations further stress the 
grave and concrete risk that, as the hunger strikes proceed, attempts 
will be made to compel striking prisoners to undergo medical treatment 
and for IPS doctors to force-feed prisoners against their will, in 
accordance with Israel’s “Force- Feeding Law”, enacted in July 2015 in 
violation of international law and medical ethics. Reports of a field 
hospital set up for hunger strikers in Ketziot prison are worrisome, as 
treatment within the incarceration system and away from public scrutiny 
heightens the likelihood of violations of human rights and medical 
ethics. The recent email sent by the Ministry of Health, requiring 
Israeli doctors who refuse to force-feed to find replacement physicians 
who will agree to do so, is likewise contrary to international law and 
medical ethics.

The undersigned human rights organizations hereby call on the 
international community to urge Israel to cease its ongoing, systematic 
human rights violations against the hunger-strikers, and to comply with 
their just demands regarding family visits, access to medical care, 
solitary confinement, and to end the use of administrative detention.

- End -

Addameer Prisoners Support & Human Rights Association

Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority in Israel

Arab Association for Human Rights

Physicians for Human Rights - Israel

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*Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association*

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