Immediate action needed to ensure Israel respects hunger-strikers’ rights
Ramallah-Jaffa, 20 February 2013 –
Addameer, Al-Haq and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) express their grave concern for the health of four Palestinian hunger-strikers and outrage at the continued use by Israel of administrative detention as a widespread practice to punish and suppress Palestinian dissent against Israel. In violation of international law, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) has prohibited the hunger strikers from receiving family visits as well as denying them access to Addameer lawyers and independent physicians. Due to Israel’s use of administrative detention, and the lack of due process afforded to Palestinians in the military court system, a hunger strike represents the singlemost non-violent tool available to administrative detainees and other political prisoners to fight for their basic human rights.
Each of the prisoners in question has been placed in isolation as a punitive measure at some point during their hunger strike as well as being subjected to other forms of ill-treatment and intimidation. These include beatings, almost-daily cell and body searches and shackling to hospital beds. In addition, the IPS has confiscated all personal material belonging to the prisoners.
· At a hearing yesterday, Samer Issawi, who is in a life-threatening condition and weighs less than 48 kilograms after being on intermittent hunger strike for more than 200 days, was denied release on bail by the Jerusalem Magistrate Court. Samer is protesting his arbitrary re-arrest after his release in a prisoner exchange on 18 October 2011. Using Military Order 1651, Article 186, the military prosecution is requesting that he serve the twenty years that remain from his previous sentence. Samer is suffering from various health conditions including low blood pressure and irregular heart rate, severe pain in the kidney region, muscle pain and constant headaches.
· Tarek Qa’adan and Jafar Azzidine have been on hunger strike for 86 days in protest against their detention without charge or trial. Neither man has access to the information upon which his detention is based, therefore undermining their ability to effectively challenge the administrative detention order. On 12 February, Tarek and Jafar told PHR-Israel’s lawyer that they were no longer taking any supplements or vitamins, adding further threat to their lives. Tarek and Jafar were informed by the prison doctor that due to their rapidly deteriorating health, they were at risk of imminent heart attack unless they received adequate medical treatment. Both men have expressed their wish to be monitored by and receive impartial medical consultation from physicians of PHR-Israel, however, this request has been ignored by the IPS. Tarek and Jafar are both being held under administrative detention orders, which are due to expire on 22 February 2013.
· Ayman Sharawna has been on hunger strike since 1 July 2012, except for a brief reprieve in January 2013 when he believed that his case was moving in a positive direction. He is protesting the Israeli prosecution’s attempt to have him serve the remaining 28 years of his previous sentence. Ayman was released in the 18 October 2011 prisoner exchange but was re-arrested on 31 January 2012. Since then, he has been held without charge or trial, based on a “secret administrative file” which alleges that he breached the terms of the exchange deal. Ayman and his lawyer have not been granted access to this secret file or allowed to know the nature of his alleged breach of contract. At a Supreme Court hearing today to contest the legitimacy of his detention under Military Order 1651, Article 186, Ayman’s case was referred back to the Military Court, which will hear his case at a later date. He has also been under continuous pressure from the Israeli General Security Service to end his hunger strike.
Israel’s widespread practice of administrative detention constitutes a serious breach of international humanitarian and human rights law. While administrative detention is allowed under international humanitarian law, it must be used only under exceptional circumstances as it infringes upon basic human rights, including right to a fair trial. There are currently 178 Palestinians being held under administrative detention orders, including five democratically elected Palestinian Legislative Council members. Administrative detainees should at all times be entitled to habeas corpus remedy, be informed of the reasons for detention and be allowed regular family visits. This form of arbitrary arrest also contravenes Articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In March of last year the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination urged Israel to end its current practice of administrative detention, which it referred to as discriminatory and constituting arbitrary detention under international human rights law. Similarly, Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union, this week called upon Israel to allow for the immediate restoration to the hunger strikers of family visiting rights and called upon Israel to bring formal charges against the hunger-strikers with a view to providing them with a fair trial without delay. Also this week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated the call to Israel for administrative detainees to be charged and granted a fair trial, or be promptly released.
Such calls for Israel to abide by its international law obligations echo countless others that have been issued by the international community over decades. We are concerned that, like those before them, they will be ignored by Israel until the Member States of the UN begin to support their rhetoric with concrete action and ensure that Israel can no longer violate international law with impunity.
Addameer, Al-Haq and PHR-Israel demand that all hunger-striking prisoners are transferred to civilian hospitals immediately, where they should receive adequate medical care without being shackled. The shackling of hunger-striking prisoners in civilian hospitals is in violation of medical ethics as well as the guidelines of the Israeli Ministry of Health, the Israeli Medical Association, and the IPS. In addition, family visits, along with regular access to independent medical care and lawyers should be fully reinstated.
In the absence of any formal charges against the hunger-strikers and administrative detainees in general, and bearing in mind that the Israeli court system does not offer a fair and transparent judicial process for Palestinians - a point that was reiterated by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Settlements - Addameer, Al-Haq and PHR-Israel also demand that all four prisoners and the remaining administrative detainees be released without delay.