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Palestinian prisoners’ lives in danger after weeks of hunger strike – NGOs call for international support

The Palestine Monitor

4pd-20130722045702.jpg

June 4, 2014

Over 75 of the 125 Palestinian prisoners under administrative detention in Israel have been hospitalized after five weeks of continuous hunger strike, most of them in a life-threating state.
 
The hunger strikers are demanding Israel either release them or give them a fair trial. Although some have spent years behind the bars, none of them have been charged yet.
 
On Sunday, a group of Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations, as well as the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs, petitioned the European Union asking for Israel’s largest trading partner to support the strikers urgently
 
Just a week before, Addameer, a prisoner support and human rights organization based in Ramallah, appealed to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on the prisoners’ issue with the hope of increasing international pressure on Israel.
 
So far Israeli authorities have not entered into any sort of serious negotiations with the strikers. According to Israeli security agencies, abolishing administrative detention would require changing the legislation
 
Administrative detention, or arresting and detaining people without charges or a  trial due to 'secret information,’ is normally legal only on an individual basis. The fact that Israel has, over the years, kept thousands of Palestinians detained indefinitely via administrative detention is a "complete mockery of international law," according to Gavin Kelly from Addameer.
 
"Israel has taken parts of the Ottoman, Jordanian, and other laws to suit its political needs," said.
 
Reasons behind the detentions are only available for the Israeli authorities.
"In twenty years, we have never known what is in these secret files", Kelly said.
 
What Addameer finds especially worrying is that Israel is about to legalize force-feeding. Kelly estimates that the amendment is likely to be passed by the Knesset soon, although the exact date remains unknown.
 
"According to the World Medical Association, force-feeding is never acceptable," Kelly told Palestine Monitor. "This is just another Israeli attempt to limit the political consequences of the hunger strikes."
 
"During 1970s and 1980s, five Palestinian prisoners died because of force-feeding. In addition, one prisoner died as a result of hunger strike in 1992," Kelly warned.
 
Palestinians have regularly used hunger strikes to protest against conditions within Israel’s prison system. In 2012, about 2,000 hunger-striking prisoners forced Israel to stop isolation treatment, to allow family visits, and to use administrative detention only in exceptional cases.
 
Out of these promises, however, only family visits have been maintained – albeit only partially. Visits are allowed for prisoners from Gaza every two months instead of once every two weeks.
 
The current group of detainees on hunger strike contains eight members of the Palestinian parliament, academics, and political activists. 
 
Kelly believes that the actual number of hunger strikers could be even higher than 125, as other prisoners are joining the protest on an almost daily basis. The exact number is hard to confirm because Israeli authorities are continuously transferring the detainees from one prison to another.
 
The Palestinian unity government, sworn in on Monday the 2nd of June, abolished the position of Minster of Prisoners’ Affairs. According to Kelly, this makes the situation for hunger strikers even more worrying.
 

 



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