May 16, 2012
More than 1,600 Palestinian prisoners have agreed to end their hunger strike in exchange for concessions by Israel, including a modification to its practice of detention without charge or trial.
The prisoners, who are jailed in Israeli military prisons on suspicion or convictions of terror-related activity, started their life-threatening hunger strikes about a month ago. There have been grave concerns for their health.
IFHHRO member Physicians for Human Rights Israel, which has supported the hunger strikers from the beginning, is pleased with the agreement, but also raises new concerns. PHR emphasises that the lifes of the hunger strikers are still in danger, as the process of re-feeding carries grave risks. The human rights organisation says that the medical centre where they will be treated is not a proper hospital. It is therefore incapable of giving them the adequate necessary care, also because it has no ability to cope with emergency situations that might occur. PHR is urging the government to transfer those patients to real hospitals, and it recommends that the re-feeding process of all hunger strikers – even those in the prisons – will be done with professional advice.
Under the terms of the agreement, Israel has agreed to end solitary confinement and allow prisoners from the coastal Gaza Strip to receive visits from immediate relatives, as is allowed for prisoners from the West Bank. Israel also agreed to free about 320 prisoners who are being held without charge or trial in administrative detention, provided they finish their current six-month detention terms and no new evidence against them surfaces.
The practice of administrative detention, which can be renewed indefinitely, is a key focus of the detainees who have been on hunger strike the longest. Sahar Francis, director of the prisoners’ rights organisation Addameer, said the concessions granted by Israel amount to a success for the prisoners. But the change to administrative detention policy is vague, she said. Several detainees are still on hunger strike. They demand to be released immediately.