Israel must investigate reported abuse of two Palestinian hunger strikers in wheelchairs

Amnesty International is calling on the Israeli authorities to investigate allegations that two Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in protest at their administrative detention have been ill-treated while in detention, Amnesty International said today.

The two men - Hassan Safadi and Samer al-Barq - have been on hunger strike since 21 June and 22 May respectively.

According to their lawyer, guards have beaten and verbally abused the men at the Israel Prison Service Medical Centre in the central city of Ramleh. The two are barely able to stand and use wheelchairs for their daily needs. Independent medical examinations conducted last week found that both men were weak and that they risk death if their hunger strikes continue.

Hassan Safadi’s health deteriorated on 6 August and he was transferred to Assaf Harofeh hospital, where he remains shackled to his bed - which constitutes degrading treatment prohibited under international human rights law. Safadi has been detained since 29 June 2011. He ended a previous 70-day hunger strike in May then, when his administrative detention order was renewed for further six months, he restarted his hunger strike on 21 June.
 
Samer al-Barq has been held in administrative detention since 2010. He ended a hunger strike after 50 days in the middle of May, only to resume it days later after his detention order was renewed for a further three months.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Ann Harrison said:

“The Israeli authorities must release Hassan Safadi, Samer al-Barq and all other administrative detainees, unless they are promptly charged with recognisable criminal offences and tried in accordance with international fair trial standards.

“They must also investigate allegations that Hassan Safadi and Samer al-Barq have been ill-treated while in detention and ensure they are treated humanely, and not punished in any way for their hunger strike.”

In Israel detainees can be held in administrative detention without charge or trial for periods of up to six months; these detentions can be renewed indefinitely. Israel has used the measure against its citizens since 1948. Thousands of Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories have been subjected to it since 1967.

Administrative detainees - like many other Palestinian prisoners - have been subjected to violations such as the use of torture and other ill-treatment during interrogation, as well as cruel and degrading treatment during their detention, sometimes as punishment for hunger strikes or other protests.

In addition, administrative detainees and their families must live with the uncertainty of not knowing how long they will be deprived of their liberty and the injustice of not knowing exactly why they are being detained. Like other Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody, they have also faced bans on family visits, forcible transfer or exile and solitary confinement. These practices contravene Israel’s international human rights obligations.

A mass hunger strike involving some 2,000 Palestinian prisoners and detainees protesting against poor prison conditions, including solitary confinement, denial of family visits and detention without charge, came to an end on 14 May following an Egyptian-brokered deal with the Israeli authorities.

Despite media reports suggesting that Israel had agreed that administrative detention orders of current detainees would not be renewed unless significant new intelligence information was presented, the Israeli authorities have continued to renew orders and to issue new ones. As of the end of June there were at least 285 Palestinian administrative detainees, among them members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Human rights defenders such as Walid Hanatsheh and at least four journalists, in addition to university students and academic staff, were also among those behind bars without charge or trial.

In June, Amnesty’s report, Starved of justice: Palestinians detained without trial by Israel, documented human rights violations associated with administrative detention in Israel.
 

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