Hunger Strikes Update: Punishments escalate against the 12 remaining hunger strikers

The following statement was released by Addameer on July 24. In addition, Abdelmajid Khdeirat, from Tubas, who has been striking since July 1, was transferred to Ramle prison clinic. Khdeirat is a former prisoner freed in an exchange who was rearrested, and the Israeli occupation is threatening to re-impose his entire original sentence:

Ramallah, 24 July 2013 – Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association condemns the treatment of the 12 Palestinian and Jordanian hunger strikers languishing in the Israeli prisons. Addameer lawyers visited four of the Jordanian prisoners earlier this week and gathered details of the harsh and difficult conditions they are undergoing during their hunger strike. The twelve current hunger strikers are: Ayman Hamdan [88 days], Emad Al-Batran [79 days], Ayman Tabeesh [63 days], Mohammad Tabeesh [43 days], Adel Hareebat [63 days], Husam Matir [54 days], Abd Al Majid Khdeirat [24 days], Abdallah Barghouthi [84 days], Mohammad Rimawi [84 days], Munir Mar’ee [84 days], Alaa Hamad [84 days] and Hamza Othman [79 days].
It should be noted that as their punishments escalate, the hunger strikers are beginning to be denied lawyers visits, such as in the case of Adv. Fawaz Shaloudy, who is now denied visits based on the Israel Prison Service’s (IPS) claims that he is transferring information between the hunger strikers. A similar visitation ban was placed on Addameer lawyers Anan Odeh and Samer Simaan during the mass hunger strikes in 2011 and 2012. This continuous policy of banning lawyers who visit the hunger strikers restricts the work of human rights organizations and further isolates the prisoners from the outside world in an attempt to break their strike.

Mohammad Tabeesh, who has been on hunger strike for 63 days at Ramleh Prison Hospital in solidarity with his brother, administrative detainee Ayman Tabeesh, reported being assaulted and treated violently by the IPS upon announcing his hunger strike. When Mohammad announced his hunger strike, he was immediately moved to isolation where the IPS attempted to conduct a strip search and when he refused, the doctor, nurses and prison guards held him down and attempted to remove his clothing. They forced him onto the floor and began to beat him violently, especially on his hands and legs where he still has scars until today. Mohammad was transferred several times to isolation in different prisons, including in a 1×2 meter cell in Jalameh, confiscated of his clothing, and fined 450 NIS for starting the strike. He is also denied family visits for a period of 2 months, denied sending letters to his family and, according to a threat from the prison director, any other infraction inside the prison will mean a monetary punishment of 5,000 NIS. While in isolation, his 1×2 meter cell in Jalameh Prison was without a window and had freezing air continuously pumping into the cell as well as a fluorescent light that stayed on 24 hours a day. During that time, Mohammad was denied blankets, laundry detergent, soap and shampoo. Today, he is still refusing vitamins and is only taking water, salt and sugar.

Alaa Hammad, who has been on hunger strike for 84 days, has reported being threatened to be force-fed if he does not end his strike. Alaa began taking vitamins during his hunger strike but developed a rash as a result, at which point the doctor switched him from tablet to liquid vitamins. Upon his return to Ramleh Prison Hospital on 11 July, he was denied liquid vitamins and therefore decided to stop drinking water and taking any supplements. He is also subjected to humiliating searches twice a day and had his hands and legs cuffed during his lawyers’ visits.

Hamza Othman, who has lost 26 kilograms since the beginning of his 79 day hunger strike, described the inhumane conditions in the various isolation cells and hospitals he has been transferred to since the beginning of his hunger strike. Upon announcing his strike, he was put in a filthy, concrete, 1.8×1.8 meter cell and banned of all forms of communication with his family until September. Hamza was also transferred to different prisons several times, including to Marash Prison Hospital where he developed a skin rash but was refused treatment in an attempt to coerce him to end his strike. Furthermore, Hamza is routinely examined while being cuffed in his hands and legs, and when he escalated his strike in response to this, he was banned from using the restroom for 12 hours.

Munir Mar’ee, who has been on strike for 84 days, was also immediately put in isolation upon announcing his strike and transferred several times between prisons where he was held in small isolation cells and denied basic necessities for hygiene. When Munir was transferred to Suroka Hospital, he was verbally abused by the physician who was treating him. He is currently taking water, vitamins, salt and sugar but has lost 17 kilograms and remains in a dangerous health condition.

The descriptions from these hunger strikers are an illustration of the conditions that all twelve hunger strikers are enduring. The inhumane treatment of the prisoners who join the hunger strike is not a new phenomenon. Prisoners have reported that the IPS has tried many tactics to break their hunger strike, including putting them in cells with criminal prisoners, cooking and eating near their cells, and “roughing them up” while they are handcuffed to their hospital beds.

The punishments of the hunger strikers is in light of new legislation that the Israeli Justice Ministry is preparing to propose to legalize force-feeding of Palestinian security prisoners, subject to court approval. This proposed legislation is in direct violation of the World Medical Association’s Declaration on Malta that states “forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable. Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhumane and degrading treatment.”[1] The adoption of this new “force-feeding” bill will institutionalize the degradation of the Palestinian prisoners and put them in danger as they fight to gain their basic rights.

Addameer is gravely concerned for the health and well-being of the twelve hunger strikers, and calls on the international community, namely the General- Secretary of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, the European Union and the International Committee of the Red Cross to guarantee the rights of the prisoners.