On April 17, about 1,600 Palestinian prisoners began open-ended hunger strikes. More on that below.
Palestinians face hellish conditions in Israeli prisons. They endure torture, deprivation, isolation, intimidation, and denial of basic rights.
Administrative detainees are held indefinitely without charge or trial. Children young as 10 are treated like adults. So-called security prisoners are isolated punitively for extended periods.
All Palestinian prisoners suffer overcrowding, poor ventilation and sanitation, lack of proper clothing, inadequate food in terms of quality, quantity, and conformity to dietary requirements, and poor medical care.
They also have limited or no access to family members and counsel. They get wooden planks with thin mattresses and filthy blankets. They suffer winter and summer weather extremes. The Addameer prisoner support group calls overall conditions "appalling."
Palestinians "are almost completely cut off from the outside world." Children are treated like adults. Women are treated like men. Toilets inside cells often back up through drains.
Essential hygiene necessities like toothpaste, clean clothes, and cleaning products are denied. Medical negligence is common. Required surgery may take years to get if at all. Medications only are given to treat disease. "Sick detainees inside Israeli prisons live on painkillers and tranquilizers," says Addameer.
Many released prisoners face chronic health problems. Often, early death results. Israeli treatment violates international law. Doing so is official Israeli policy.
Geneva's Common Article 3 prohibits all forms of cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment.
The International Covenant Against Torture (CAT) prohibits it at all times, under all conditions with no allowed exceptions.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states:
"All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person (Article 10.1)."
Former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak once ruled:
""The walls of the prison do not separate the prisoner from human dignity. Life in prison intrinsically involves a violation of many liberties that a free person enjoys. But life in prison does not require denial of the prisoner's right to bodily integrity or protection against violation of his dignity as a person."
Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty states:
"....(B)asic human rights in Israel are based on recognition of the value of man, the sanctity of his life and the fact that he is free. The goal of the law is to defend Human Dignity and Liberty, in order to establish in a Basic Law the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."
Last summer, instead of obeying international law, his own, and his Supreme Court, Netanyahu toughened prison conditions harshly. As a result, cruel, abusive and degrading treatment got worse.
Palestinians react the only way they can. Hunger striking is a common tactic. In 1968, they began. Some were individual, others collective. At issue are intolerable conditions, denial of basic rights, and collective punishment.
Annually on April 17 since 1979, Palestinian Prisoners Day commemorates Mahmoud Hijazi's 1974 release. He was the first political prisoner freed in exchange for Shumuel Rosenwasser, an Israeli held.
On Tuesday, April 17, 2012, about 1,600 Palestinian prisoners began open-end hunger strikes. Besides their illegal detention, they want humane treatment and basic rights observed. Their demands include:
- Ending administrative detention.
- Ending solitary confinement.
- Reinstating the right to education.
- Halting abusive cell invasions and gratuitous strip searches.
- Allowing family visitations, especially for detained Gazans receiving especially harsh treatment.
- Proper medical care.
- Halting body-searches of family members allowed visits.
- Allowing books and newspapers.
- Halting abusive penalties.
Palestinians want to be treated like human beings as international law mandates. They suffer horrifically under appalling conditions. Deaths result. Many when released aren't ever the same. Many die from chronic and debilitating diseases.
Heroic hunger strikers Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi inspired others to refuse food for justice.
On March 30, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights expressed concern for eight current open-ended hunger strikers. They include:
(1) Mahmoud Kamel Mohammed As-Sersik
On July 22, 2009, he was arrested. On August 23, 2009, Israel extended his detention under its Unlawful Combatant Law (UCL).
Israel calls As-Sersik, and others like him, "unlawful combatants." No proof is needed, just "a reasonable basis" for believing targeted Palestinians engaged in belligerent confrontation with Israel or belong to a hostile group.
As-Sersik's been hunger striking for three weeks. On April 8, he was transferred to Eshel prison solitary confinement.
(2) Thaer 'Aziz Mahmoud Halahla
On June 27, 2010, he was arrested. On March 5, 2012, his administrative detention was extended six months. He refused food for 44 days. On March 28, he was hospitalized in Ar-Ramla prison hospital. Deteriorated health places him gravely at risk.
(3) Belal Nabil Sa'eed Diyab
On August 17, 2011, he was arrested. On February 14, 2012, his administrative detention was extended six months. He's been hunger striking 45 days against imprisonment with charge or trial. On March 28, he was hospitalized in Ar-Ramla prison hospital. His condition's also grave.
(4) Ja'far Ibrahim Mohammed Eiz Ad-Din
On March 21, 2012, he was arrested. He was administratively detained without charge for six months. He's been hunger striking 22 days. On March 28, he was transferred to Al Jalama prison solitary confinement. He's now in Ar-Ramla prison hospital.
(5) Ahmed Nabhan Da'san Saqer
On November 20, 2008, he was arrested. On January 24, 2012, his administrative detention was extended six months. Israel often holds administrative detainees uncharged without trial for years. Doing so has no basis in international law.
He's been hunger striking 31 days in Shata prison.
(6) Mohammed Rafeq Kamel At-Taj
On November 19, 2003, he was arrested. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He's been hunger striking 29 days for justice. He and thousands of others in Israeli prisons get none.
(7) Hasan Zahi As-Safadi
On June 29, 2011, he was arrested. On January 29, 2012, his administrative detention was extended four months. He's been hunger striking 39 days. On April 6, he was hospitalized in Ar-Ramla prison hospital. He's also very much at risk.
(8) Omar Mousa Mesleh Shalaeil
On August 15, 2011, he was arrested. On February 15, 2012, his administrative detention was extended six months. He's been hunger striking 41 days. Now in Ar-Ramla prison hospital, his health also deteriorated severely.
Throughout 45 years of occupation, Israel lawlessly detained Palestinians "as part of its policy of restraint and collective punishment...."
The British Mandate 1945 Emergency Law remains in force. Israel uses it repressively to detain Palestinians, hold them indefinitely without charge or trial, and provide no reasons for doing so.
Israel's Unlawful Combatant Law exacerbates harsh practices.
"Administrative detention amounts to arbitrary detention in violation of the law when the detainee is not presented with the reason for his detention, made subject to criminal charges, or informed when he will be released."
Doing so violates international law. Israel spurns it unaccountably. Alleged secret evidence is used. Detainees and counsel are denied access. Due process and judicial fairness are nowhere in sight. Palestinians are guilty by accusation for praying to the wrong God.
Israel can hold them uncharged without trial forever. Palestinians risk their lives for justice. Israel doesn't care if they live or die.
Around 1,600 began protesting today. Hundreds more may join them. The whole world's watching. Human rights activists and others who care won't be silent. Israeli crimes against humanity can't be tolerated.
Mass hunger protests won't stop them. Public rage has a chance. Maybe fed up Israelis will participate. What are they waiting for?
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|