Addameer: Imminent danger to lives of hunger strikers Samer Al-Barq and Hassan Safadi

Ramallah-Jaffa2 September 2012 — Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-IL) fear for the lives of the three remaining Palestinian hunger strikers held by Israel. Of utmost concern are the health conditions of administrative detainees Samer Al-Barq, today on his 104th day of renewed hunger strikefollowing his previous 30-day hunger strike, and Hassan Safadi, today on his 74th day of renewed hunger strike following his previous 71-day hunger strike.

According to Addameer lawyer Fares Ziad following his visit to Ramleh prison medical clinic on 30 August, Samer was too weak to meet with him and could not get out of bed. Mr. Ziad met with Hassan and fellow hunger striker Ayman Sharawna, who is on his 64th day of hunger strike today. During their visit, Hassan told Mr. Ziad that both he and Samer had recently been taken to Assaf Harofeh hospital for a few days due to the further deterioration of their conditions and doctors informed them that their lives were under immediate threat.
Hassan is experiencing such extreme fatigue that he is unable to sleep, and instead falls unconscious 2-3 times each day. Due to slow heart rate and severe potassium deficiency, Hassan was taken to Assaf Harofeh for testing from 27-29 August. Troublingly, Hassan was told by the doctors in the hospital that the tests revealed that his immunity level has fallen dangerously low; there is fluid in his lungs; and he has developed problems in his liver and kidneys including  kidney stones. He is also experiencing chronic pain in his upper waist and joints.
While in the hospital, Hassan was shackled by all four limbs to the hospital bed. He noted that four soldiers were in his room at all times and that they made as much noise as possible and ate and drank in the room. When he asked them to be quieter, they simply mocked him. After receiving the results of his tests, doctors in the hospital told Hassan that the full responsibility of his condition lies on Hassan since he refuses to break his strike. Addameer, Al-Haq and PHR-IL categorically hold Israel accountable for Hassan and the other hunger strikers’ current conditions.
During his visit with Ayman Sharawna, Mr. Ziad learned that prison doctors informed Ayman that his life is also at risk. Ayman noted that in addition to very low immunity levels and cirrhosis in his liver, he suffers from terrible joint pain and back pain from previous chronic conditions, and that the IPS doctors refuse to give him pain medication until he stops his hunger strike. According to Ayman, the pain is so severe that he has been unable to stand on his own since the middle of August.
During the visit of PHR-IL lawyer Muhammad Mahajne on 28 August, Ayman reported experiencing constant vertigo, severe headaches, high blood pressure and extreme weight loss of about 28 kilos from his original weight. Ayman also reported that he was taken to Assaf Harofeh hospital three times during his hunger strike, and that he was told that he is starting to develop a kidney problem.
Furthermore, Ayman reported that during each hospitalization he was shackled to the hospital bed by three limbs, humiliating treatment that is also extremely uncomfortable and prevents Ayman from moving freely in his bed. Ayman is still denied access to an  independent doctor as well as family visits. All three hunger strikers are now held in the same isolation cell in Ramleh.
Akram Rikhawi ended his hunger strike on 22 July after 102 days, upon reaching an agreement with the IPS to be released in January 2013. Following a visit to Akram on 25 July, the PHR-IL doctor recommended Akram’s immediate referral to a public hospital and to be immediately examined by a lung specialist. To date, this recommendation has not been implemented. Even more alarmingly, Akram reported that the IPS has raised his steroid dosage, which he is given as treatment for his asthma. Akram’s asthma continues to be a cause for concern and is severely unstable despite treatment with steroids. The doctor emphasized that asthma is a life-threatening illness that in the case of a major attack could lead to death.
Samer is now the longest hunger striker in Palestinian history. He and Hassan have reached very critical stages in their prolonged hunger strikes, with doctors noting that they are at immediate risk of death. Nonetheless, Israel not only insists on the injustice of depriving them of their right to fair trial, but also continues to severely mistreat them, in the forms of physical brutality and psychological torture that is employed by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) to get them to break their strikes.
Despite their severe medical conditions, both Samer and Hassan are still denied family visits and access to independent physicians and independent medical care. Addameer, Al-Haq and PHR-IL are outraged by the IPS’ practice of approving visits by independent doctors only after court orders are issued, and by the Israeli District Court of Petah Tikva’s unwillingness to order the IPS to allow frequent and consistent visits by independent doctors to hunger strikers.
In light of the severe deterioration of the health conditions of the remaining Palestinian detainees on hunger strike, Addameer, Al-Haq and PHR-IL urge the international community to immediately intervene on their behalf and demand:
  • That the agreements reached on 14 and 15 May 2012 be respected, including the release of administrative detainees who were promised release at the end of their current orders;
  • Unrestricted access for independent physicians to all hunger strikers;
  • The immediate transfer of Samer Al-Barq and Hassan Safadi, as well as all other hunger strikers, to public hospitals;
  • That no hunger striker be shackled while hospitalized;
  • That all hunger strikers be allowed family visits, while they are still lucid;
  • That Hassan Safadi and Samer Al-Barq, along with all other administrative detainees, in addition to Ayman Sharawna and other detainees that were released as part of the prisoner exchange deal in October 2011 be immediately and unconditionally released.