Investigation into abuses against Palestinian hunger strikers called for
Responding to the deal which sees 2,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons suspending a month-long hunger strike after Israel agreed several measures to improve prison conditions, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Ann Harrison said:
“We hope that these commitments signal a new approach by the Israeli authorities founded on respect for prisoners’ human rights.
“However, 2,000 prisoners and detainees should not have had to put their health on the line in order to ensure respect for their human rights which the Israeli authorities have been violating for years.
“These repeated violations by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) against hunger-striking prisoners require a full, independent and impartial investigation, and those responsible must be held accountable.
“Such prolonged solitary confinement - based on information withheld from the prisoners and their lawyers - is a violation of their rights to due process and constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
“Those in the Ramleh IPS medical facility who have been on hunger strike for between 6-11 weeks must be transferred to a civilian hospital immediately until their lives are no longer in danger and must be treated humanely at all times.
“Israel’s reported commitment under the deal not to renew the detention orders of current administrative detainees unless significant new intelligence information is presented, does not fulfil these recommendations, but would - if implemented - be a first step towards meeting its international human rights obligations.”
Amnesty and local human rights organisations have documented repeated violations by the IPS against hunger-striking detainees since administrative detainee Khader Adnan began a hunger strike in December 2011. These include punishing detainees on hunger strike by placing them in solitary confinement and imposing punitive fines; denying them urgent medical care; preventing access to independent doctors and lawyers; banning family visits; physical assaults; and forcibly administering treatment including injections against the detainees’ will.
Amnesty is also concerned that in recent weeks Israeli forces and police reportedly used excessive force against non-violent protesters demonstrating in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike in both the West Bank and Israel.
Under the Egyptian-brokered deal, Israel has agreed to end solitary confinement for 19 prisoners - held in isolation for up to 10 years - and lift a ban on family visits for prisoners from the Gaza strip, among other things. Prisoners are expected to be moved to cells where they will have contact with other inmates by the end of this week. Amnesty has repeatedly called for a resumption of family visits for prisoners from Gaza, which were completely suspended in June 2007
Administrative detention is a procedure under which detainees are held under military orders without charge or trial for periods of up to six months which can be renewed indefinitely. Based on regulations initially passed under the British Mandate, Israel has used the measure against its citizens since 1948, and since 1967, against thousands of Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories. The orders are based on secret information which is not disclosed to the detainees or their lawyers, denying detainees the opportunity to effectively exercise their right to mount a legal challenge.
At the end of April 2012, some 308 Palestinians were held as administrative detainees according to IPS statistics. Some are held as prisoners of conscience, held solely for their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association or assembly.
For many years, Amnesty has urged Israel to end the practice and to release administrative detainees unless they are charged with a recognisable criminal offence and promptly tried according to international standards.