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Hunger Strikes & Israel's Force Feeding Law

Tuesday, 18 August 2015 12:48 - [3 - 9 August] - Ref.: 78/2015
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mohammad_allanMuhammad Nasr Addin 'Allan, 31, is currently in a critical stage of his hunger strike, having fallen into a coma after over 60 days of being on strike. Muhammad began his hunger strike on 15 June 2015 in protest against his administrative detention by Israeli authorities, after having been detained without trial since his arrest on 6 November 2014. Muhammad had previously spent over three years in Israeli prisons between 2006 and 2011 on political grounds.

After commencing his hunger strike, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) placed Muhammad in solitary confinement. Muhammad was then transferred to four different prisons as a means of punishment for refusing medical check-ups and an attempt to force him to halt his hunger strike. He was also denied visits from his family and lawyers. On the 26th day of his hunger strike, Muhammad decided to escalate his strike by only consuming one glass of water per day. Muhammad was later transferred to the Soroko Medical Centre in Beer Al-Sabe', where he again refused medical treatment and check-ups.

During this period, an Israeli law was adopted on 30 July 2015 allowing the force-feeding of detainees or prisoners on hunger strikes in Israeli custody. The law mainly affects Palestinian prisoners, including Muhammad, as many have resorted to hunger strikes as their only means to protest their detention and its conditions.

Doctors at the Soroko Medical Centre refused to force-feed Muhammad 'Allan. Consequently, Muhammad was transferred to the Barzilai Medical Centre in Ashkelon.

Despite Muhammad's deteriorating medical condition, he continues his hunger strike until his demands are met. Currently, Muhammad is receiving “nutrients and vitamins but no proteins or calories” to stabilize his condition. However, the amount of damage that his body has suffered due to the hunger strike is still unknown to the doctors. [1] Given Muhammad's situation, he could be the first Palestinian prisoner to be force-fed under the law.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Israeli authorities force-fed Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, resulting in the death of three prisoners: Ali Al-Ja'fari, Rasem Abu Al-Halawa, and Ishaq Maragha.

There are currently at least 5,750 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, 401 of whom are being held under administrative detention[2]. Since the beginning of August 2015, tensions have escalated between Palestinian prisoners and the IPS. There are hundreds of prisoners currently protesting their conditions, and calling for several demands, including an improvement in medical care for prisoners, an end to solitary confinement, restoration of family visits, as well as an end to the arbitrary transfer of prisoners. Another key demand is ending Israel’s policy of administrative detention. Currently, there are at least 148 prisoners[3] who have gone on hunger strike other than Muhammad 'Allan, either in solidarity with other prisoners or protesting their own conditions in prison.

The Israeli Supreme court is in the process of reviewing Muhammad’s case and demands. The court stated that it would be willing to release Muhammad on the condition that he is deported outside the country for four years. Under international law, forcible transfer and the deportation of protected persons constitute a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute and as such are forbidden.

Al-Haq is gravely concerned with the situation and condition of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli custody. Al-Haq condemns Israel's policy of administrative detention as it violates international human rights law (IHRL) and international humanitarian law (IHL). It deprives detainees of their right to liberty, due process, and fair trial. Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Israel is a State party, affords everyone the right to liberty and security of person and prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention. Even when claiming to be in state of emergency, Israel may not arbitrarily deprive individuals of their liberty or flout fundamental fair trial guarantees. These rights are consistently violated through Israel’s policy of administrative detention. 

According to Physicians for Human Rights, force-feeding may damage the nasal tissues, throat, esophagus, lungs, and tissues in proximity to veins or different layers of the abdominal wall. This may cause pain and bleeding, and possibly lead to deadly complications.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health both condemned Israel's force-feeding law and stated that it was "tantamount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment." They further called on Israel to end the practice of administrative detention given its incompatibility with IHRL, and called for the release or charge of all detainees.

 



[1] Doctors Attempting to Bring Palestinian Hunger Striker Out of Coma, 17 August 2015, available at: http://www.haaretz.com/news/israel/.premium-1.671487?date=1439807340885

[2] Addameer, available at: http://www.addameer.org/

[3] Number of Palestinian Prisoners on hunger Strike in Israeli Jails Reached 148, 9 August 2015, available at: http://english.wafa.ps/index.php?action=detail&id=29053

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