19 March 2012
Press Release | Physicians for Human Rights -IsraelOn the 33rd day of her hunger strike, administrative detainee Hana Shalabi is in danger of imminent death. An independent physician from Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR-Israel) examined her today and determined that she must be hospitalized immediatelyPhysicians for Human Rights: the Prison Service treatment of Shalabi violates medical ethics
Hana Shalabi, an administrative detainee held at the Sharon Prison, has been on hunger strike for more than a month, in protest of her violent detention, the humiliating and hurtful search that was conducted on her upon her detention, and also in protest of being held in administrative detention. A hearing on her case is expected to be held at the military court.
This morning (March 19th) an independent physician visited Hana Shalabi on behalf of PHR-Israel, and she states that there has been a significant deterioration in her condition, and that she risks death. The deterioration is expressed in a process of muscle breakdown, with a weight loss of 14 kg (31 lb.) since the onset of the hunger strike, a very slow pulse, and a drop in blood sodium levels. These symptoms could indicate grave damage to the heart and the beginning of the breakdown of the heart muscle, which could lead to heart failure at any moment.
Additionally, her body temperature is low (hypothermia), recorded at 35.05°C (95.09°F), with Shalabi reporting that she feels cold. This finding indicates that the energy production in her body is mostly directed at the essential organs, which also indicates possible damage to the heart, which could be expressed in arrhythmia, systemic deterioration, or sudden death. The attending physician adds that Shalabi is not taking medications, has gone from ambulatory independence to being dependent on others for locomotion, and suffers from significant weakness, low blood pressure, serious pain throughout her body, significant sensitivity in her upper abdominal region, and serious dizziness.
The results of the blood test taken on March 14th indicate a drop in the levels of blood glucose and sodium, and damage to the thyroid functions. The thyroid plays a critical role in maintaining body temperature, as well as heart, liver, and brain function. Significant damage to the thyroid gland could lead to a coma, and this possibility is clearly present with regard to Shalabi. Additionally, blood work done today indicates disruption of the clotting functionality, and a significant lack of iron and vitamins.
Following her examination, the physician has determined that Shalabi is in immediate danger to her life, and recommended that she be transported to a hospital with no delay, for close supervision and follow-up. The Prison Service has announced that it has transported Shalabi to the Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba pursuant to the recommendation of the physician.
Physicians For Human Rights Israel today calls out the problematic conduct by the Israeli Prison Service in its treatment of Hana Shalabi:
• Great pressure is being exerted on Shalabi to stop the hunger strike, both by the Prison Service Ethics Committee and the Muslim cleric who is a member of that committee.
• The Chief Medical Officer for the Prison Service communicated with the PHR-I physician, asking that she persuade Shalabi to stop her strike. This clearly violates the principles of medical ethics.
• Hana’s communication with the PHR-I physician who is supposed to follow up closely on her health - is very limited. For example, when Shalabi asked to see the PHR-I physician last week, the Prison Service did not inform the physician of this request.
• The results of Shalabi’s blood tests, as communicated to the PHR-I physician last week, over a phone call with the Chief Medical Officer for the Prison Service, were found to be different from the printed results, which were sent from the lab and given to the PHR physician to review physically today. The results conveyed presented a different medical picture than that which actually existed in reality.
• It seems that the question of force-feeding has not been ruled out, and that the discussion of this matter continues in the Prison Service Ethics Committee.
• It appears that an attempt is being made to undermine Shalabi’s faith in the independent physician by presenting her with incorrect information. In the course of the physician’s examination today, Shalabi indicated that she had been told by the Prison Service representatives that the PHR independent physician had given the blood tests to the Prison Service, and that she did not wish to take them herself.
Physicians For Human Rights again expresses extreme concern for Hana Shalabi’s life. The organization expresses its dismay at the fact that medical teams are still considering the possibility of force-feeding her, despite the fact that international treaties prohibit this.
The organization calls upon the local and the international community to act immediately and intervene for the release of Shalabi, and to act to end Israel’s use of administrative detention.
For reports of prior examinations by the PHR physician see: March 13th
On 23 February 2012 an administrative detention order for six months was issued for Ms. Hana Shalabi. On 29 February there was a hearing regarding her detention in Ofer military court. On 4 March the military court decided to reduce the detention period from six to four months, but without promising to extend or renew it. As a result, Ms. Hana Shalabi announced she would continue to hunger strike until her release. On 7 March, an appeal hearing regarding the court's decision was held at Ofer, and the military judge ordered the parties to try and reach a compromise by Sunday 11 March, but no agreement has yet been reached.
Administrative detainees' protests are growing. Two additional administrative detainees, Bilal Diab and Thair Halahleh declared hunger strikes on 1 March, which they claim will continue until their release from administrative detention. On 3 March, two other administrative detainees declared hunger strikes until their release. Since the beginning of March, a number of administrative detainees have refused to acknowledge the military court and refused to participate in legal hearings of their cases. Due to Israel's use of administrative detention, and the unwillingness of the military court to interfere in this practice, a hunger strike serves as a non-violent and the sole tool available to administrative detainees to protest and fight for their basic human rights.
Approximately 309 Palestinians are currently held in administrative detention in Israeli prisons. Administrative detention allows Israel to hold detainees for indefinitely renewable six-month periods. The arrest is granted on the basis of “secret information” and without a public indictment. Therefore, administrative detainees and their lawyers cannot defend against these allegations in court.