Lives of 3 Hunger striking Detainees at Stake, says Minister

RAMALLAH, January 12, 2016 (WAFA) – The lives of three hunger striking Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails are at stake due to a significant deterioration in their health conditions, Minister Issa Qaraqe, chairman of the Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs (CPA) said on Tuesday.

He said one of the three hunger strikers, Mohammad al-Qiq, is the first Palestinian detainee in Israeli jails to be force-fed since the enacting of the force-feeding law by the Israeli Knesset in July 2015.

Qaraqe said al-Qiq was tied to the bed by Israeli physicians at Afula medical center in Israel, before they administered a nutritional substance into his vein by means of a plastic feeding tube.

One of the other two detainees, Kefah al-Hattab, is also being hospitalized at Afula center, while the third, Abdullah Abu Jaber, is being treated for severe deterioration in his health at Ramla medical center.

Al-Hattab has been on a hunger strike since November 25th, to demand the Israeli prison authorities to treat him as a prisoner of war. Al-Hattab has been relying on water only and refuses to take any nutritional supplements, salt, and sugar.

An affidavit submitted by al-Hattab described the brutal treatment he was subjected to at the hands of Israeli interrogators. Al-Hattab said that that he was forced to strip search in a very humiliating and degrading manner, while Israeli officers laughed and used vulgar language against him.

Al-Hattab was then placed naked in a cell for two days, before he was transferred to al-Ramla jail and to the Afula center about two weeks later.

Al-Qiq and Abu Jaber started a hunger strike about two month ago in protest of being held in jail without a charge or trial, whereas al-Hattab is protesting against maltreatment by the Israeli prison authorities.

In July 2015, Israel’s parliament enacted the force-feeding law of prisoners on hunger strike, a move that was met by vehement opposition from the country’s medical association.

Adalah and Al Mezan human rights centers commented in this regard as saying that, “With this new law, Israel sanctions torture and ill-treatment.” According to al-Mezan, “Forced-feeding resulted in the death of 3 prisoners on hunger strike in past decades.”

Adalah also commented on the law stating that, “… Israel passed legislation that sanctions the torture of hunger strikers. The law enables the state to break a prisoner’s will by violating his/her human rights, including the right of autonomy over one’s body, in order to deprive prisoners of the only means of peaceful protest they have left at their disposal.”

“If Israel wants to end hunger-strikes, it should address the grievances prompting the strikes, end its practice of administrative detention without charge or trial, and provide humane conditions for Palestinian prisoners, instead of using criminal methods that violate medical ethics and international law.”

Prior to the passage of the law, two UN human rights experts reiterated their call on the Israeli authorities to stop the process of legalizing force-feeding and forced medical treatment of detainees on hunger strike, said al-Mezan.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Health, Daninius Puras, said that, “Under no circumstance will force-feeding of prisoners and detainees on hunger strike comply with human rights standards. Informed consent is an integral part in the realization of the right to health.”

To be noted, The World Medical Association prohibits doctors from participating in forced-feeding.

Meanwhile, Qaraqe maintained that the policy of force-feeding prisoners, “is against Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law, as it legalizes torture of prisoners who are demanding their rights in a non-violent way.”

UN officials in the West Bank also expressed their condemnation of the law, saying that hunger striking is “a non-violent form of protest used by individuals who have exhausted other forms of protest to highlight the seriousness of their situations.”

Israel’s Medical Association, which considers force-feeding a form of torture and medically risky, has urged Israeli doctors not to abide by the law.

There are more than 500 Palestinian prisoners being held under administrative detention, a controversial Israeli practice that allows detention of Palestinians without charge or trial for up to sex-month intervals that can be renewed indefinitely.

Israeli officials claim the practice is an essential tool in preventing attacks and protecting sensitive intelligence, but it has been strongly criticized by the international community as well as by both Israeli and Palestinian rights groups.

The Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, said international law stipulates that administrative detention may be exercised only in very exceptional cases. Nevertheless, Israeli authorities routinely employ administrative detention on thousands of Palestinians.

Israel uses administrative detention regularly as a form of collective punishment and mass detention of Palestinians, and frequently uses administrative detention when it fails to obtain confessions in interrogations of Palestinian detainees.

Palestinian detainees have continuously resorted to open-ended hunger strikes as a way to protest their illegal administrative detention and to demand an end to this policy, which violates international law.