Doctor and lawyer visits to hunger strikers reveal mistreatment by Israeli Prison Service
Ramallah-Jaffa, 7 August 2012 — Four Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli detention remain steadfast in their open hunger strikes as their health conditions continue to deteriorate. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-IL), Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and Al-Haq are particularly concerned for the lives of administrative detainees Samer Al-Barq and Hassan Safadi, who have been on protracted hunger strikes and are subject to consistent mistreatment at the hands of the Israeli Prison Service (IPS).
Addameer lawyer Fares Ziad visited Mr. Al-Barq and Mr. Safadi in Ramleh prison medical center two days ago, 5 August, and a PHR-IL doctor was also able to visit them on 2 August.
Mr. Al-Barq is currently on his 78th day of renewed hunger strike, directly following his previous 30-day hunger strike. According to an affidavit taken by Mr. Ziad, Mr. Al-Barq was transferred from Ramleh to Ofer military court on 31 July by IPS special forces, or Nahshon, known for their particularly brutal treatment of prisoners during transfers. During this transfer, the special forces ordered Mr. Al-Barq to walk, and when he told them that he could not, they beat him on his legs. They eventually brought him a wheelchair but did not help him, so he was forced to crawl to the chair and wheel it himself.
Mr. Safadi, who is now on his 48th day of renewed hunger strike, following his previous 71-day hunger strike, also recounted a disturbing incident to Mr. Ziad. On 30 July, five Israeli soldiers raided his room. They first tore his pillow before starting to insult him and beat him all over his body, leaving his left leg injured. Mr. Safadi noted that his room is searched three or four times each day in a violent manner, though he is held in a small isolation cell with only his clothes. He and Mr. Al-Barq are now held together in this cell, which is only about 1.5 by 1.8 meters in size, with no windows or ventilation.
Mr. Safadi elaborated to the PHR-IL doctor it was only after he complained to guards that it was hard to breathe in his cell that they immediately brought Mr. Al-Barq to share the tiny cell with him. Furthermore, there is no space in the room for the wheelchair that is being used by both hunger strikers for everyday activities, including the use of shower and toilet. After he again protested these conditions and treatment, he and Mr. Al-Barq were both beaten.
In the PHR-IL doctor’s visit on 2 August, the IPS doctor noted that Mr. Al-Barq and Mr. Safadi are often refusing any treatments such as minerals and vitamins. Both of them told the doctor that they are doing so as a last resort to protest against the humiliating and violent treatment by IPS staff. Since Ramadan began on 20 July, they drink water only at night. The two hunger strikers are also refusing to give blood tests during Ramadan due to religious adherence. During the visit, the IPS would not allow the independent doctor to examine the hunger strikers without the presence of IPS staff, in violation of the Israeli Patients’ Rights Law. An IPS paramedic was present in the examination room and at some point also brought other patients into the room.
The doctor reported that both Mr. Al-Barq and Mr. Safadi were fully conscious and aware during the visit. Though during the past days he was accepting some minerals and vitamins, Mr. Al-Barq told the doctor that he plans to stop all treatment because of the beating. He suffers from weakness and general pain in his body with no specific origin. Due to a slow pulse he was sent to the emergency room in Assaf Harofeh hospital but was released without recommendations for treatment. Mr. Safadi currently suffers from vertigo, especially when he attempts to stand, and pain on the left side of his rib cage.
The PHR-IL doctor commented following the visit that there is “reason to believe that in the future the health of the two strikers will deteriorate, and therefore their condition requires special attention and close monitoring.” He further noted that he believed the hunger strikers should be examined by an impartial doctor once a week, without any restrictions such as needing court orders for permission.
Notably, two other Palestinian political prisoners are also currently on hunger strike: Ayman Sharawna and Samer Al-Issawi, on days 38 and 7 respectively. Both were released in last October’s prisoner exchange deal and subsequently re-arrested.
PHR-IL, Addameer and Al-Haq are outraged by the mistreatment and violent attacks on Palestinian prisoners in general, and especially in the cases of these fragile hunger strikers. PHR-IL, Addameer and Al-Haq urge the international community to intervene with Israel on behalf of these detainees before their conditions deteriorate even further and demand:
• that the agreements reached on 14 and 15 May 2012 be respected, including the release of administrative detainees who were promised release at the end of their current orders;
• that the terms of the prisoner exchange deal be fully respected and that prisoners released in the deal not be rearrested by Israel;
• that Hassan Safadi, Samer Al-Barq and Omar Abu Shalal, along with all other administrative detainees, be immediately and unconditionally released;
• unrestricted access for independent physicians to all hunger strikers.