Palestinian hunger strike ends, but prisoners face fresh torture

June 27, 2014

Dozens of Palestinians held without charge or trial by Israel ended their 63-day hunger strike protest on June 25. It was the longest hunger strike in the history of the Palestinian prisoners movement.

Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups said on June 26 that about 80 of the hunger strikers were still hospitalised and shackled to their beds.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government is set to push through laws to permit the force-feeding of hunger strikers. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu weilded this threat in a bid to break the two-month strike.

United Nations experts yesterday called on Israel to abandon the draft law, describing the plan to break the hunger strike as “cruel and inhuman” treatment.

Gavan Kelly of the Palestinian human rights and prisoner advocacy group Addameer told that force-feeding amounted to “torture … on an industrial scale”.

Kelly added that “since the second half of 2011, not one day has passed where there hasn’t been at least one Palestinian on hunger strike. And the Israelis have failed to deal with the hunger strikes … we consider that their way to deal with the hunger strikes is through introducing force-feeding.”

Though the details of any agreement to end the mass hunger strike remain unclear, what is certain is that Israel will continue trampling on the rights of the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners in its jails.

On the occasion of the International Day to Support Victims of Torture, Addameer called on June 26 for a United Nations investigation into Israel’s “gross violations of the Convention against Torture and to hold it accountable in the International Criminal Court”.

More than 100 Palestinian political prisoners have died in Israeli detention since Israel ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture in 1991, Addameer said.

The widespread, systematic use of torture against Palestinian prisoners includes, as Addameer said, “shackling prisoners in stress positions, beating them, holding them in isolation or solitary confinement, and sleep and sensory deprivation”.

Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces are also routinely subjected to torture. Addameer said 75% of Palestinian children are physically abused during their arrest.

The Israeli military court system’s widespread use of administrative detention, which allows for the indefinite detention of Palestinians without charge or the right to stand trial, iont he basis of secret evidence based on secre. This is “a form of psychological torture,” Addameer said.

Israeli law outlaws the use of torture, but a loophole allows the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) to consider an individual as a “ticking-bomb” case in “situations of necessity”. This means they can exert “moderate physical pressure” to obtain information from them.

This policy, which is in direct violation of the United Nations Convention against Torture, is used extensively against Palestinian prisoners. More than 90% of prisoners have said they were subjected to some form of physical or psychological torture during interrogation or detention.

Arafat Jaradat, a young father of two, was found dead in his prison cell just days after he was arrested in his home in Sa’eer, Hebron. He had several broken ribs, deep bruising on his body and other injuries that confirmed his torture.

According to Addameer’s figures, there were nearly 5300 Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel as of May 1. This included nearly 200 held without charge or trial under administrative detention orders.

That number has swelled in recent weeks as Israeli forces arrested an estimated 500 Palestinians. It came as part of a wider assault after the June 12 disappearance of three Israeli teenagers who were hitchhiking in the West Bank.

[Abridged from Electronic Intifada.]

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