The following statement and action alert was issued by the National Lawyers Guild in the United States. The National Lawyers Guild was formed in 1937 as the nation’s first racially integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.
The National Lawyers Guild urges the immediate release of hunger-striking Palestinian lawyer and administrative detainee, Muhammed Allan, as he nears death in his third month on open hunger strike. Allan is now in a coma and attached to a ventilator. He is threatened with force-feeding at any moment under the new Israeli “Law to Prevent Harm Caused by Hunger Strikers,” passed last month, which legalizes its use against hunger striking prisoners.
Force-feeding is cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment amounting to torture; this Israeli law – like the U.S. practice at Guantanamo Bay – has been subject to widespread international criticism and condemnation. Several Palestinian prisoners died after being force-fed in the 1980s.
Allan is currently in a critical medical condition. He lost consciousness late on Thursday night and is attached to a ventilator for artificial respiration; he previously suffered blurred vision, hearing loss, and was unable to walk. He has been engaged in a full hunger strike, consuming only water, rejecting vitamins, minerals and other supplements. Nonetheless, Allan remains shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed in Israel’s Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon. To date, doctors have refused to force-feed Allan. The Israeli Medical Association has denounced the recently passed legislation and pledged that doctors will not implement the practice. “Forced-feeding is equivalent to torture and every physician has the right to refuse to force-feed a hunger striker against his or her will,” the IMA states in its Physician’s Guide to Treating the Detainee/ Prisoner on a Hunger Strike.
Allan, 31, is a lawyer from Einabous village near Nablus. He is held under administrative detention, without charge or trial, on the basis of secret evidence. Administrative detention orders result in imprisonment for a period of one to six months, and are indefinitely renewable. When Allan was arrested in November 2014, he was handcuffed, forcibly taken to his office in Nablus, and ordered to show files of clients he had represented, interfering with his attorney-client relationships and violating their confidentiality. He was ordered to a six-month period of detention; the renewal of the order against him prompted his current strike.
Under international human rights law, administrative detention can only be used on a case-by-case basis for “imperative reasons of security.” Israel’s systematic use of administrative detention, in which approximately 400 Palestinians are currently held, violates the Fourth Geneva Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Force feeding is opposed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which stresses the importance of respecting the choices and preserving the dignity of detainees. The World Medical Association (WMA) adopts a similar position, as expressed in the 2006 revision of the Tokyo and Malta Declarations. The Malta Declaration of the World Health Organization states that “Any decisions lack moral force if made involuntarily by use of threats, peer pressure or coercion. Hunger strikers should not be forcibly given treatment they refuse. Forced feeding contrary to an informed and voluntary refusal is unjustifiable…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 inhuman and degrading treatment. Equally unacceptable is the forced feeding of some detainees in order to intimidate or coerce other hunger strikers to stop fasting.”
The National Lawyers Guild urges the immediate release of Muhammed Allan from administrative detention and an end to the use of administrative detention by the Israeli state. Furthermore, the NLG calls for the overturn of the “Law to Prevent Harm Caused by Hunger Strikers,” legalizing force-feeding, and also reiterates its demand that the U.S. government end its use of force-feeding and hold those responsible for the torture of detainees accountable.
The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council, the Arab Association for Human Rights, Adalah and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel have called for urgent action on Allan’s case. The National Lawyers Guild joins their call (below) and also urges members and supporters to contact the White House and demand Allan’s freedom, and contact your member of Congress and urge them to cut off U.S. aid to Israel because of its practices of administrative detention and torture.
Please call the White House (001-202-456-1111) now and tell Barack Obama to demand that Israel immediately free Mohammed Allan.
You can find the telephone, fax and web contact information for your member of Congress at contactingthecongress.org. When calling your member of Congress, please keep the following points in mind:
- Muhammed Allan is held without charge or trial. He is one of approximately 400 Palestinians facing this violation of his rights today.
- Force feeding, when practiced by the US or by Israel, is a form of inhumane and degrading treatment amounting to torture.
- US aid to Israel directly funds the Israeli military responsible for the imprisonment of Allan and the use of administrative detention.
- The US should end its aid to Israel, because Israel is responsible for gross and systematic violations of Palestinian human rights, in this case through the policy of administrative detention.
Call for Urgent Action
Palestinian Administrative Detainee on Hunger Strike in Critical Condition
The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council, the Arab Association for Human Rights, Adalah and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel call for urgent action to save the life of Palestinian administrative detainee and attorney Mohammad Allan, who has been on hunger strike for 57 days in protest of his administrative detention without charge or trial since 6 November 2014. Mohammad Allan is currently detained in Barzilai hospital in Askalan. The Israeli Prison Services transferred Allan from Soroka hospital on 10 August after informing Allan’s lawyer of their intention to seek authorization to force-feed him, which was met by the refusal of the medical staff at Soroka hospital to carry out any forced examinations or treatment or Mr. Allan. Mahmoud Allan is currently in a dire physical state and in a very critical condition.
Adv. Samer Sama’an from Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association visited Mr. Allan in Barizlai hospital on 12 August 2015. Mr. Allan confirmed that he seeks to live, but a life of dignity and freedom…Despite his very fragile and critical situation [of], the Israeli Prison Service still insists to keep Mr. Allan shackled by foot and arm to what could potentially become his deathbed in a very inhumane treatment and gesture….
The undersigned organizations warn that Mohammad Allan has reached a critically advanced medical condition and now may be nearing death. The continued arbitrary detention of Mohammad Allan under administrative detention violates international norms and standards as enshrined under the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits the systematic use of administrative detention by the occupying power against protected persons and limits its use for imperative security reasons and according to legal procedures which guarantee the right of a fair trial. The continued detention of Mohammad Allan endangers his life and violates his most basic rights to fair trial and human dignity.
The undersigned organizations further stress that any forced treatment, coercion or feeding of hunger striker Mohammad Allan while he is conscious and mentally competent constitute violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Any medical coercion on Allan despite his refusal may cause the opposite effect and result in severe health problems and even potentially jeopardize Allan’s life, as evident in Israel’s previous attempts to force-feed Palestinian hunger strikers during the 1980s, which resulted in several deaths. Force-feeding violates medical ethics as it administers forceful treatment to a patient against his will, and is considered a form of torture. The World Medical Association addressed the Prime Minister of Israel, stating the following: “Force-feeding is violent, very painful and absolutely in opposition to the principle of individual autonomy. It is a degrading, inhumane treatment, amounting to torture. But worse, it can be dangerous and is the most unsuitable approach to save lives.” Article 7 of the 1975 World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo explicitly states that doctors are not allowed to force-feed hunger strikers.
The undersigned organizations condemn Israel’s policy to allow the deterioration in the health condition of Mohammad Allan and refusing to negotiate his release in an attempt to escalate the current situation so as to proceed with force-feeding Mr. Allan and to undermine the use of hunger strikes as a non-violent form of protest by Palestinian prisoners and detainees who have no other means to protest and bring attention to the flagrant human rights violations they face in Israeli prisons. Depriving Palestinian detainees and prisoners from their fundamental right to peaceful protest by the means of hunger strikes is a major setback to the just demands of Palestinian detainees and prisoners in Israeli prisons who are demanding justice, dignity and basic rights.
We hereby urge immediate action including writing to relevant authorities, decision-makers, international bodies, diplomatic missions, and United Nations representative offices and agencies to pressure Israeli authorities to stop the use of administrative detention, to dismiss their plans to force-feed Mr. Allan and to put an end to his arbitrary detention in blatant violation of international human rights and humanitarian law guarantees and standards– in order to save his life.