Prisoners’ hunger-strike – myths and facts

The Israeli government made huge efforts to end the hunger strike….’’

Although the Israelis made concessions to end the strike, there was:

  • No commitment to end the practice of detention without trial. The most recent Amnesty Report states that the Israeli government has renewed at least 30 administrative and issued at least 3 new ones.
  • No commitment to end the practice of torture
  • No commitment to allow visits by independent physicians or transfer gravely ill hunger strikers to civilian prison.
  • Despite the promise to restart family visits, none have been reported as yet

Israel agreed to end solitary confinement for 19 prisoners held in isolation for up to 10 years, lift a 5-year ban on family visits for prisoners from the Gaza Strip and discuss prisoners’ demands for improving prison conditions under an Egypt-brokered deal finalised on 14 May 2012.

Israel ended the strike because their security experts warned that the West Bank would erupt if a hunger striker died.

‘‘Administrative detention is allowable…..in a state of emergency….’’:A state of emergency is, by definition, a temporary legal response to an exceptional and grave threat to the nation. A perpetual state of emergency is a contradiction in terms.

Background 

  • The initial non-violent protest of hunger strikers Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi, both held in prison without trial or charge, led to a mass hunger strike begun on 17 April, with close on 2,000 prisoners participating.  Prisoner demands included an end to the practice of administrative detention, solitary confinement and the use of torture, and that family visits for Gazan prisoners, and independent medical care be allowed.
  • In recent years, detention conditions have become harsher according to Amnesty International, and undertakings given by the Israeli government at the time of the Gilad Shalit release, were reneged on.
  • Currently, 4,424 Palestinians are held by the Israeli authorities as “security prisoners” and thus held under harsher conditions than “criminal prisoners” – are detained or serving sentences in Israeli prisons.  Over 320 of these “security prisoners” are held under administrative detention orders, with no charge or trial. [1]
  • Amnesty International has collected evidence over many years indicating that administrative detention is used regularly by the Israeli authorities as a form of political detention…. to punish those who have not committed any crime. [2]
  • They are held months or years in prison without knowing details of the allegations against them. Since administrative detention orders are renewable an unlimited number of times, no administrative detainee knows when they will be released.

[2] http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/israel-injustice-and-secrecy-surrounding-administrative-detention-2012-06-01

“But they are all terrorists….”

  • 220 Palestinian children are currently held in detention facilities in Israel[1] in breach of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention[2]
  • Israel has also jailed leaders of village committees that hold weekly non-violent protests against the wall taking their villages’ land – such as Abdullah Abu Rahma in Bil’in and Bassem al-Tamimi in Nabi Smuel, jailed for 15 and 13 months respectively for organising peaceful demonstrations.
  • Palestinian academic Ahmad Qatamesh has been in prison since 21 April 2011 apparently solely for the peaceful expression of his non-violent political beliefs. He denies being a member of any Palestinian political party and has never advocated violence
  • At least 24 Palestinian MPs are currently held in administrative detention, among them 63-year-old Dr Aziz Dweik, the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, for no known reason other than that they are Hamas MPs

Background 

  • The Israeli prison service imposes a much harsher regime on ‘security prisoners’, subjecting them to constant strip- and cell-searches, refusing access to all but Israeli TV, imposing frequent bans on mail and visits.
  • Courts impose much higher sentences on Palestinians from 99 years for life sentences to 10 months for stone-throwing
  • Palestinian children can be held for 90 days without access to parents or lawyers and confessions extorted by threats to demolish their parents houses if they don’t sign ‘confessions’ in Hebrew which they can’t understand,  resulting in a conviction rate of 99.74%.

[2] See also letter of UK lawyers to the Foreign Secretary: http://www.dcipalestine.org/sites/default/files/lphr_dci_-_urgent_action_-_forcible_transfer_1_2.pdf

Contact Details

This briefing has been produced by Martin Linton, Sally Fitzharris and Taris Ahmad. For further questions please contact:

Martin Linton, martin@martinlinton.org

Sally Fitzharris, sally@sallyfitzharris.co.uk

Taris Ahmad, international.law.taris@gmail.com

Further information

Map of West Bank settlement

http://www.ochaopt.org/fsonlinemaps.aspx

Trajectory of the Wall

http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_west_bank_barrier_route_update_july_2011.pdf

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