Israel/OPT: terminally-ill Palestinian prisoner Walid Daqqah must be released - new appeal
Palestinian citizen of Israel, who has chronic lung disease and bone marrow cancer, has been in jail for 37 years
Prison where Daqqah is held does not have the medical facilities needed to treat him
‘Walid’s case illustrates the Israeli justice system’s cruelty towards Palestinians’ - Heba Morayef
The Israeli authorities must release a terminally-ill Palestinian prisoner so he can urgently access specialist medical care and spend his remaining time alive with his family, Amnesty International said today.
Walid Daqqah, 62, who suffers from chronic lung disease and bone marrow cancer, is held in Israel’s Ayalon Prison which does not have the medical facilities required to treat his chronic condition.
Following a cancer diagnosis last year, the Israeli Prison Service denied Daqqah access to a potentially life-saving bone marrow transplant by refusing to transfer him to a civilian hospital.
Daqqah has served a 37-year prison sentence for his involvement with an armed group that abducted and killed an Israeli soldier in 1984. He completed the sentence in March this year. However, in 2018 he was sentenced to a further two years on charges of attempting to smuggle phones to other Palestinian prisoners, and he is now due for release in March 2025 - a date he may not live to see.
Earlier this year, on 26 June, a special parole board rejected Daqqah’s request for early release on the grounds of his illness, and on 7 August the Lod District Court also rejected Daqqah’s petition against the parole board’s decision.
Daqqah’s wife Sanaa Salameh told Amnesty that her husband had been subjected to “systematic” and longstanding medical negligence in prison. Daqqah’s family is planning to file an appeal on his case with the Israeli Supreme Court, but, as they told Amnesty, “time is a luxury we don’t have.”
Amnesty has launched an urgent appeal on Daqqah’s case today, requesting that Israeli president Isaac Herzog intervene and commute Daqqah’s remaining jail time and facilitate his release.
Heba Morayef, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Director, said:
“Walid Daqqah faces the prospect of a painful death behind bars.
“Walid’s case illustrates the Israeli justice system’s cruelty towards Palestinians, including those who are seriously ill or dying.
“Denying prisoners access to adequate medical care violates international standards on the treatment of detainees, and may constitute torture.
“We urge the Israeli authorities to release Walid Daqqah, end the systematic denial of adequate medical care to sick Palestinian prisoners, and ensure they respect all international standards on the treatment of detainees.”
Israel’s apartheid system
Amnesty’s 2022 report on Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians sets out how Israeli military justice systematically discriminates against Palestinians and denies them the right to a fair trial and due process.
Host of severe medical conditions
In 2022, Walid Daqqah was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a rare form of bone marrow cancer. He also has chronic pulmonary obstructive disease. Following the Israeli Prison Service’s delay in transferring him for emergency treatment after a stroke, Daqqah suffered a host of complications including pneumonia and kidney failure, and had to have most of his right lung removed. Amnesty has reviewed a medical evaluation of Daqqah’s case conducted by Israeli haematologist Moshe Gatt, whose opinion was requested by Physicians for Human Rights Israel in January this year. Dr Gatt has recommended that Daqqah be relocated to a clean and hygienic environment. Amnesty has also seen a medical evaluation carried out by Dmitry Klotzky, a chief medical officer at the Israeli Prison Service, who said that Daqqah’s prognosis was “extremely poor” and that he needs help with all daily activities.
Palestinian human rights organisations such as Addameer have long documented Israel’s policy of medical negligence against Palestinian prisoners. The World Health Organisation and the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT have also raised concerns about the Israeli Prison Service’s treatment of sick Palestinian prisoners. The UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states that “prisoners should enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the community, and should have access to necessary health-care services free of charge without discrimination on the grounds of their legal status.”
Special punishments for ‘security prisoners’
Daqqah, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was arrested in March 1986. A year later, a military court convicted him of commanding a group affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which had abducted and killed Israeli soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984. He was not convicted of carrying out the murder himself, but of ordering other members of the group to kill Tamam. Daqqah says he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment during interrogation. He was sentenced to life in prison, but in 2012 this was capped at 37 years and he completed the sentence in March this year. Amnesty condemns the killing of Moshe Tamam as a violation of the Geneva Conventions’ absolute prohibition on violence to the life and person of armed forces members who have laid down their arms, including those in captivity.
During his time in prison Daqqah has written numerous essays on the impact of incarceration on Palestinian society, a novel for young adults, and many letters describing prison life - one of which was adapted into a play. Following the publication of his novel, the Israeli Prison Service placed Daqqah in punitive solitary confinement. Petitions for conjugal visits by Daqqah and his wife have repeatedly been rejected by the Israeli authorities. All Palestinians classified as "security prisoners" are denied this right - which is usually granted to Jewish Israeli prisoners with the same designation. In 2019, Daqqah and his wife managed to conceive a child by smuggling sperm out of the prison, and their daughter Milad was born in 2020. Daqqah was placed in solitary confinement following Milad’s birth and was not allowed to see his child for the first 18 months of her life.