The following letter was sent by 18 Palestinian human rights organizations to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon regarding the urgent case of Palestinian administrative detainees and political prisoners on hunger strike:
His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki Moon
United Nations Secretary General
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017
Date: 22 May 2014
Re: Mass Hunger Strike of Palestinian ‘Administrative Detainees’
We, the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs and the undersigned human rights organizations, request your immediate intervention on behalf of the approximately 125 Palestinian detainees and prisoners currently on hunger strike in Israeli prisons.
The hunger strike commenced on 24 April 2014 when approximately 90 detainees began refusing food in protest of their continued administrative detention, which is detention without charge or trial. Since then the hunger strike has escalated as more administrative detainees and prisoners have joined the strike. The youngest hunger striker, Ahmad Rimawi, is just 19 years old.
The seriousness of the situation cannot be underestimated as the majority of the hunger strikers have now gone 29 days without food. Unless there is immediate intervention there will be serious consequences for the health of all those on hunger strike.
Since the strike commenced the conditions and the treatment of the hunger strikers have deteriorated as the Israeli authorities have imposed a number of punitive measures. All hunger strikers were immediately isolated from the rest of the prison population, with many also being transferred to different prisons.Israeli Prison Service (IPS) guards and Israeli Special Forces have also been conducting intrusive searches on the hunger strikers, and violent raids on their cells, on a daily basis.
In addition, all hunger strikers have also been denied family visits for four months, with some of the leaders of the strike being denied visits for six months. Some of the leaders of the strike have also been placed in isolation. All personal belongings of the hunger strikers have been confiscated and hygiene products and soap have also been denied. Access to the hunger strikers is proving particularly difficult as the Israeli authorities are restricting visits of their legal counsel.
Each hunger striker was denied access to salt for the first fifteen days of their strike. They have also decided to boycott the prison clinics as they accuse the prison physicians of conspiring with the IPS to break the strike.This behaviour is in direct violation of the World Medical Association’s Malta Declaration on Hunger Strikers, which states that “Physicians or other health care personnel may not apply undue pressure of any sort on the hunger striker to suspend the strike.”
There are currently eleven members of the Palestinian Legislative Council imprisoned by Israel, six of whom are also on hunger strike. All six are being held under administrative detention. This is despite the fact that under international law nobody can be imprisoned for their political opinions. The PLC members, and most of the hunger strikers, are held without charge and under secret evidence and their administrative detention orders can be renewed indefinitely.
We would also like to bring to your attention recent proposed legislation that has now been approved to come before the Israeli Knesset for voting into Israeli law, which, if passed into law, would allow for the force feeding of Palestinian hunger strikers.If this legislation is indeed passed into law it would have serious implications as according to the World Medical Association Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers, “Forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable”.
We welcome your previous statements highlighting Israel’s use of administrative detention, including that of 11 December 2013 in which you stated administrative detention “should be applied only under clear parameters and in exceptional circumstances, for as short a period as possible and without prejudice to the rights guaranteed to prisoners. Those detained must be allowed to challenge their detention and, in the absence of formal charges, should be released without delay”.
The origins of the current mass hunger strike can be traced back to an agreement between the IPS and representatives of the prisoners on 14 May 2012 which ended the previous mass hunger strike in 2012. Contained in this agreement were a number of elements including a restriction that administrative detention will onlybe used only in exceptional circumstances, as is required under international law.
However, since the May 2012 agreement, Israel has not only failed to limit the use of administrative detention but has in fact increased its use. By continuing to renege on the agreement, Palestinian political prisoners feel compelled to undertake a hunger strike which puts their lives in grave danger.
We call on you in your capacity as Secretary-General of the United Nations to immediately intervene on behalf of the hunger strikers and ensure that Israel, as the Occupying Power, respect its obligations under international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Conventions.
Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association
Aldameer Association for Human Rights
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
Defence for Children International – Palestine Section
Ensan Center for Human Rights and Democracy
Hurryyat –Centre for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights
Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies
Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling
Palestinian Center for Human Rights
The Public Committee against Torture in Israel
Adalah – The Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel
Arab Association for Human Rights
Palestinian Prisoners Society
Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs