Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Adalah and Al Mezan support the demands of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike
On Tuesday, 27 September 2011, more than one hundred Palestinian prisoners began an open-ended hunger strike to protest the intentionally harmful policies of the Israeli government toward them, including harsh conditions of incarceration and collectively hostile treatment.
The hunger strike is slated to continue until all the prisoners' demands are met or 'until loss of life'. Central to these demands is the abolishment of the measure of prolonged solitary confinement, including that of Ahmad Sa’adat General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). A separate group of prisoners has decided to abstain from eating three days a week until these demands are met. .
The Israeli government and authorities have worsened the conditions of incarceration of Palestinian prisoners in recent years. The measures employed have included collective punitive practices, in violation of basic constitutional principles entrenched in Israeli and international law. Collective abuse of Palestinian prisoners has intensified, and has been anchored in new legislation and draconian regulations. These have led the prisoners to believe that a hunger strike, which could endanger their lives, is their last chance of effecting change.
The policies employed by the Israeli authorities include:
- Prolonged solitary confinement, especially of political leaders. Solitary confinement is a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that can cause severe and in some cases irreversible physical and psychological harm
- Violation of basic rights such as denial of legal counsel during interrogation, restriction of judicial review of arrest and interrogation procedures
- Incarceration of Palestinian prisoners from the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in facilities inside Israel in contravention of International Humanitarian Law
- Prevention of all family visits from the Gaza Strip for the past five years, and prevention of some family visits from the West Bank; imposition of bureaucratic obstacles to family visits, amounting to harassment
· Severe and disproportionate punishments during prison terms, including punitive solitary confinement, fines, denial of family visits, denial of the right to purchase food in the prison canteen, and more.
· Daily searches in cells using force, full strip-searches and humiliating naked body searches, and similar searches on visiting family members
· Hand- and leg-shackling of prisoners during family and lawyers' visits, and during medical care in hospitals.
· Denial of the right to education while in prison
· Blocking of television channels, denial of books, newspapers and other literature.
· Imposition of uniforms despite the prisoners' self-definition as political, not criminal prisoners.
The undersigned human-rights organizations express their concern at the deterioration of the conditions of Palestinian prisoners and are of the opinion that their demands are justified. Their right to autonomy of body and life should not be denied as a result of imprisonment; a prison sentence cannot serve as an excuse for denial of basic rights.
The three organizations call upon the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) to refrain from harming striking prisoners or punishing them. They emphasize that the professional and ethical responsibility of those responsible for medical services in the IPS is to care for the health of their patients – the prisoners. Doctors tending the hunger strikers must monitor their medical condition on an individual basis, and care for each prisoner as necessary, based on consent of the patient. In addition, entry permission must be granted to independent doctors who are trusted by prisoners and their families, in order to examine them – as instructed by the WMA
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JOINT PROJECT OF ADALAH, AL MEZAN (GAZA) AND PHYSICIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS-ISRAEL
The contents of this press release are the sole responsibility of Adalah, Al Mezan and PHR-I and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.