Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh’s court hearing: Ruling postponed on their 66th day of hunger strike

Thaer Halahleh in court - photo by @Thameenahusary on Twitter

The scheduled ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court on the appeal of hunger striking administrative detainees Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab was delayed “until further notice” today, Thursday, May 3, as Halahleh and Diab enter their 66th day of hunger strike. Halahleh and Diab are now tied with Khader Adnan in engaging in the longest-lasting hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Addameer reported that:

“No decision was made in today’s Israeli High Court hearing regarding the administrative detention of Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, currently on their 66th day of hunger strike. Both Bilal and Thaer were brought to the hearing and attended in wheelchairs. During the hearing, Bilal fainted and there were no doctors present inside the court. Thaer testified to the mistreatment he has suffered since his arrest. Judge Amnon Rubenstein announced that the panel of judges would make a decision after reviewing the “secret file”, but after the review there was still no decision. He said that the parties will be informed of the decision later on, without stating when.”

Both are held under administrative detention without charge or trial. Bilal Diab is shackled with six sets of shackles in his prison hospital bed, and guarded by four guards at all times, even as he has repeatedly lost consciousness.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on Israel to “immediately charge or release people jailed without charge or trial under so-called administrative detention,” in a statement. “It shouldn’t take the self-starvation of Palestinian prisoners for Israel to realize it is violating their due process rights,” HRW deputy regional director Joe Stork.

Physicians for Human Rights reported on May 1 that Diab and Halahleh are in grave, life-threatening condition.

Addameer reported:

An independent doctor from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) determined yesterday, 30 April, that Bilal is at immediate risk of death and that both he and Thaer must be transferred immediately to a civilian hospital in order to receive adequate medical attention. Yesterday’s visit by PHR-Israel was only the second visit from an independent doctor since the beginning of their hunger strikes, and only came following a legal petition filed in an Israeli District Court for the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) to allow access to Bilal and Thaer in Ramleh prison medical center. Any subsequent visit may still require going back to court.

According to PHR-Israel, “both detainees suffer from acute muscle weakness in their limbs, which prevents them from standing. They both are in need of full assistance in daily activities such as showering, though such help is not provided in the IPS clinic. They both suffer from an acute decrease in muscle tone and are bedridden, which puts them under dual threat: muscle atrophy and Thromobophilia, which can lead to a fatal blood clot.”

Furthermore, the PHR-Israel doctor noted that Bilal’s life-threatening condition includes sharp weight loss, concern for peripheral nerve damage, extremely low pulse (39 beats per minute) and blood pressure, severe dehydration, and possible internal bleeding. The doctor stated that Bilal should be transferred to a hospital immediately and receive full monitoring of his heart. Following the doctor visit, Bilal was transferred to a civilian hospital, only to be transferred back to Ramleh prison a few hours later. After collapsing this afternoon, he was transferred again to Assaf Harofeh hospital, where he currently remains. These frequent transfers only serve to further endanger his fragile condition.

The doctor noted that Thaer is also in grave condition and suffers from sharp weight loss and pain on the left side of his upper back, which, according to PHR-Israel, coupled with his other symptoms “may indicate inflammation of the pleura [membrane around the lungs] or even a blood clot, which can be lethal without proper medical attention.” Therefore, the doctor concluded that Thaer must be transferred to a civilian hospital as he urgently requires a CT scan of his lungs, which is not provided at the IPS medical center.

Addameer’s fears that Bilal and Thaer’s serious medical condition has been met with inadequate and harmful responses by the IPS in the Ramleh prison medical center have been confirmed by yesterday’s doctor visit. In addition to the reckless transfers back and forth to the hospital for Bilal, both Thaer and Bilal reported that prison guards had recently entered their cells and carried out violent searches. Thaer also reported being abused by an IPS doctor two days prior.

Moreover, Bilal and Thaer’s lawyer Jamil Al-Khatib attempted to visit Bilal this afternoon in the hospital and was refused by the IPS. He was told he had to submit a “special request” to the legal advisors of the IPS. Bilal and Thaer’s petitions to the Israeli High Court against their administrative detention orders will be heard on 3 May. A request for family visits to Bilal was also rejected today by the IPS, who stated that he was officially being denied family visits from 9 February to 9 July for “violating an IPS order” by being on hunger strike. The IPS continues to employ every obstacle at its disposal in preventing access for lawyers and doctors to hunger striking prisoners. These tactics are designed to isolate the hunger strikers as much as possible from trusted sources of support and medical information, in complete disregard to their most urgent condition.

Addameer condemns the IPS’ blatant violation of medical ethics in its treatment of Bilal, Thaer, and all the other hunger strikers requiring medical attention, and holds the Occupation responsible for their current condition. Addameer calls on the international community to demand that both Bilal and Thaer be immediately admitted to civilian hospitals, without further transfers, and that they have unconditional access to independent doctors and their lawyers. Addameer urges the European Union, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to take immediate action and intervene with Israel in the strongest manner possible to save Bilal and Thaer’s lives before it is too late.