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JOINT PRESS RELEASE: As Hunger Strike Persists, Basic Rights of Participants Must be Upheld

03-05-2017 05:24

As the Palestinian prisoner and detainee hunger strike enters its third week, Al-Haq, Al Mezan, PCHR and FIDH call upon the international community to take action to ensure that the legitimate demands of all Palestinians held in Israeli detention are met. Our organizations express concern over the safety of the prisoners and hold Israel, the Occupying Power, accountable for any possible harm to their lives.

 

"Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells", Marwan Barghouthi, imprisoned parliamentarian on hunger strike, in an oped in the New York Times

As the Palestinian prisoner and detainee hunger strike enters its third week, Al-Haq, Al Mezan, PCHR and FIDH call upon the international community to take action to ensure that the legitimate demands of all Palestinians held in Israeli detention are met. Our organizations express concern over the safety of the prisoners and hold Israel, the Occupying Power, accountable for any possible harm to their lives.

 

About 1,500 Palestinian prisoners and detainees, launched a hunger strike on 17 April 2017, coinciding with Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, after months of unsuccessful discussions with the Israel Prison Service, to ensure respect for their rights and call attention to their plight.

 

Al-Haq, Al Mezan, PCHR and FIDH stress that the right of prisoners and detainees to participate in non-violent peaceful protests, including hunger strikes, is a fundamental human right.[1] In this regard, Israel’s punitive measures against the hunger strikers, including the use of solitary confinement[2] , prevention of meeting lawyers[3], raids, the confiscation of personal belongings, and the transfer of prisoners and detainees to other prisons, are aimed at breaking the hunger strike by force, are unlawful and must be stopped.

 

Israel must also immediately end its incitement against Palestinian prisoners. Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman recently stated that he wanted to take the non-negotiation approach of Margaret Thatcher during hunger strikes by the Irish prisoners in 1981, which ultimately led to the death of 10 individuals[4] . Lieberman’s stance echoes an Israeli policy in dealing with hunger strikes. This policy is evident in previous statements by Israeli officials including Tzachi Hanegbi who in 2004 said that Palestinian prisoners “can strike for a day, a month, even starve to death"[5] As reaffirmed by the UN Special Rapporteurs on torture and on the right to health, “the way of ending a hunger strike is [...] to address the underlying human rights violations against which they are protesting.”[6] The demands of the hunger strikers are grounded in international law. They include ending administrative detention, ending punitive measures and torture and ill treatment, including solitary confinement, ending the policy of deliberate medical neglect, respecting their right to receive visits from their families, installing public phones that can be used to contact families, and restoring education rights.

 

Israel’s policies of mass arbitrary arrest, extensive use of administrative detention, use of torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, especially during interrogation, referring prisoners to Israeli military courts which have been established and operate in breach of international law, transferring prisoners outside of the occupied territory, and other violations of their rights, require the attention and intervention of the international community. The unlawful transfer of prisoners outside of the occupied territory is used to justify unwarranted restrictions on visitation rights, and imposes hardships on the prisoners and their families. Moving prisoners out of their country is a breach of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners[7].

 

Furthermore, international humanitarian law provides specific protection to those who do not take part or have stopped taking part in hostilities, and prisoners fall under these two categories. Prisoners are afforded explicit protection under the Geneva Conventions. The High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions have thus a legal obligation to ensure respect for these rights and help avail this protection.

 

We therefore call upon the international community to urgently intervene to ensure Israel’s respect for the rights of Palestinian prisoners and detainees. The prisoners are entitled to these rights, and are currently risking their lives to achieve them.

 

Given that Israel’s widespread and systematic use of arrest and detention of Palestinians is part and parcel of its policies to control the Palestinian population and suppress their rights[8], we further call on third parties to uphold their legal obligation in ending Israel’s prolonged military and colonial occupation of the OPT.

 


[1] “Hunger strikes are a non-violent form of protest used by individuals who have exhausted other forms of protest to highlight the seriousness of their situations. The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental human right.” UN Joint Statement on new Israeli law on force-feeding of detainees, Press Release, 8 August 2015, https://unispal.un.org/DPA/DPR/unispal.nsf/0/B41EA3D4F402E0E485257E9D004C41EE

[2] In 2016, the UN Committee Against Torture notably called on Israel to “Ensure that solitary confinement and equivalent measures are used only in exceptional cases as a measure of last resort, for as short a time as possible and subject to independent review, in line with international standards.” Committee Against Torture, 3 June 2016, CAT/C/ISR/CO/5

[3] see Adalah Press Release at https://www.adalah.org/en/content/view/9086

[4] Palestinian officials warn of ’new intifada’ against Israel if hunger striking prisoners die, Independent, 20 April 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/palestinian-new-intifada-israel-hunger-striking-prisoners-die-gaza-strip-palestinian-authority-a7693121.html; In 2015, Lieberman similarly stated that Israel should have allowed a Palestinian hunger striker to die in jail. Liberman: Israel should have let hunger-striker die in jail, Times of Israel, 31 August 2015, http://www.timesofisrael.com/liberman-israel-should-have-let-hunger-striker-die-in-jail/

[5] Haaretz, 13 August 2004, available at: http://www.haaretz.com/news/hanegbi-prisoners-on-hunger-strike-can-starve-to-death-1.131545, accessed 2 May 2017

[6] Joint Statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, 28 July 2015

 

[7] As stated by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights a few days ago, "regardless of where or on what legal basis they are held, the treatment of detainees must in any event be consistent with international law, including the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners."

[8] “The numbers are staggering and are suggestive of an overarching policy that aims to intimidate and significantly restrict the freedoms of Palestinians,” Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, 19 October 2016

Tags / #detention #IHL #dignity strike