Appeal to District Court for Independent Doctor to Visit Al Jazeera Journalist Samer Allawi Detained for 23 Days without Charge by the Israeli GSS (Shabak)
(Jaffa-Tel Aviv, Israel) Today, 1 September 2011, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I), together with its partners Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza filed a prisoners' appeal to the Haifa District Court on behalf of Mr. Samer Allawi, a Palestinian national and the Afghanistan Bureau Chief for the international media network Al-Jazeera. In the appeal the three organizations demanded that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) and the Israel Security Agency (ISA, GSS, shabak) allow an independent physician volunteer from PHR-Israel, to immediately visit Mr. Allawi.
On 25 and 29 August 2011, PHR-Israel sent urgent requests to the Chief Medical Officer of the IPS, Dr. Dini Tischler, requesting an immediate visit to Mr. Allawi by a physician volunteering with PHR-Israel, with no response to date.
Mr. Allawi arrived in the Occupied West Bank in July 2011 on an annual visit to his parents. On 9 August 2011, following a stay of approximately 20 days, he tried to leave the area for Jordan and was arrested at the Allenby Crossing by the Israeli security forces. He has been held and interrogated by Israeli authorities ever since, for 23 days.
He is currently detained at the Kishon prison, an IPS detention facility in Haifa, and is under interrogation by the ISA, with no charges have been filed against him to date.
Mr. Allawi's attorney, Salim Wakeem, has voiced concerns regarding the methods of his interrogation, particularly as Mr. Allawi suffers from chronic health conditions. Mr. Allawi's attorney was denied access to documentation concerning his medical condition and treatment.
Court protocols from Mr. Allawi's hearing dated 22 August 2011 indicate that Mr. Allawi was not examined by a physician upon arrival in the detention facility, in contradiction of the IPS regulations, which provide that a detainee should be examined by a medic within 24 hours and by a physician within 48 hours of arriving in a detention facility.
According to court protocols, Mr. Allawi stated that since his arrest he has suffered pain that is not treated; that he was not examined by a physician since his arrest; that he has used only medications he had with him upon his arrest, and that the IPS has not supplied him with any further medication.
Court protocols from a later hearing dated 28 August 2011 suggest that the ISA has access to and has reviewed Mr. Allawi's medical documentation as part of his interrogation process. However, the ISA is retaining these records, along with a series of classified documents that are not revealed to anyone but the court. In response to a query from Mr. Allawi’s lawyer, asking whether his medical condition had been considered when deciding on interrogation, the ISA interrogator answered in the affirmative, saying that ". . . there are medical documents from the detention facility physician that refer to the subject of shackling and to the subject of the medical condition of the suspect and the documents were presented to the court."
This statement suggests that medical documents and personnel were used for the purpose of deciding the methods of interrogation in a non-transparent manner, and in contradiction of principles of medical ethics and medical confidentiality.
The answer provided by the ISA interrogator raises concerns that medical issues are reviewed and discussed within the detention system in a manner that mixes medical and security issues and may lead to the exploitation of health for security needs. This increases the risk of torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (CIDT) as defined by the UN Convention Against Torture, to which Israel is a state party.
The right to receive adequate medical treatment, to be detained in conditions that do not harm one's health and to be examined by an independent physician are protected in the Israel Patients’ Rights Law, the IPS regulations, and in international standards for the protection of prisoners and detainees.
The fact that these rights are routinely and more easily compromised in the case of Palestinian prisoners interrogated by the ISA calls for special attention. In such circumstances and environment, torture tends to be more prevalent.
PHR-I, Adalah and Al Mezan will urge the EU to raise the case of the detention of Mr. Allawi with the Israeli government at the upcoming EU-Israel human rights working group meeting, scheduled to take place in Israel on 13 September 2011, with specific regard to his medical condition and concerns for the conditions and methods of his interrogation and incarceration, as well as the need for an independent doctor's visit.
It is worth noting that from the beginning of the year 5 Palestinian journalists were arrested:
Aseed A’marneh, a cameraman for the Al-Aqsa satellite TV channel, Dheisheh, Bethlehem,
Amer Abu Arafa, correspondent of the Shehab news agency, Hebron.
Mohamed Basharat, a freelance working mainly on the issue of Palestinian prisoners, Tubus.
Nawaf Al Amer, an Al Quds satellite channel producer, was placed in "administrative detention"
Samer Allawi, a Palestinian citizen and Al-Jazeera’s Afghanistan Bureau Chief.