Podcast: deportation of Palestinian prisoners a war crime, says rights defender

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Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have gone on hunger strike to protest detention without charge or trial.

(Eyad Al Baba / APA images)

“There’s a serious, urgent need for putting pressure on the Israeli side to stop the policy of ignoring the demands of the prisoners and their hunger strikes.” - Sahar Francis, director of Addameer, on this week’s podcast

This week on The Electronic Intifada podcast:

Rush transcript: Sahar Francis of Addameer

The Electronic Intifada: Talk about Ayman’s [hunger striker Ayman Sharawna] health condition and the Israeli Prison Service’s announcement that they won’t give him medication until he ends his hunger strike.

Sahar Francis: Ayman is still on hunger strike. His health is deteriorating very seriously. In our visit last week, he was reporting that he feels lots of pain in his leg and in his back, and he needs to get special medication. He can’t move his leg. When he requested the medication from the prison authorities in the medical center in the Ramle [prison hospital], they said to him, “if you stop your hunger strike, we will give you the medication. If not, you’re not going to get the medication.” It’s also affecting his eyesight, his blood pressure of course. There’s a real threat on his life after such a long period on hunger strike.

EI: Ayman’s been on hunger strike for nearly three months. And he was re-arrested after being released during the widely-publicized prisoner swap about a year ago. Can you talk about the ongoing policy of the Israeli military to re-arrest Palestinians who were released during the prisoner swap?

SF: Ayman is not the only case. There are around eight prisoners who were re-arrested after the Shalit deal. We figured that the Israeli authorities, the military governor, was updating, amending a military order two years before signing the agreement, in order to give the authority for a special military committee in such cases of early release in negotiations — in order to confiscate the early release if they’re suspicious that a person was violating one condition of the early release.

And this is actually what happened in Ayman’s case, and in the other cases. Now according to secret material [evidence], the military prosecutor claims that they violated conditions of the early release, and this is why they were re-arrested, and they are subjected to getting back the remainder of the sentences they were released from, and without any new charges. Which means that Ayman and the others are not convicted with any new crimes or new activities that they committed — but just based on secret material, they are claiming that they violated the conditions and this is enough reason in order to re-arrest them. And it’s up to the committee to decide whether to keep them in detention for the rest of the period, or to release them. And all this period, until the committee makes the final decision, they would be kept in detention. There is no appeal on this decision to keep them in detention until the end of the procedures.

This is a violation against the basic rights of any detainee — that you cannot appeal any decision to be arrested until the end of the procedures.

EI: In a statement, Addameer and Al-Haq said they have obvious concerns with the agreement between Israel and Egypt in forcibly transferring Samer al-Barq to Egypt. This was a similar agreement that ended Hana al-Shalabi’s hunger strike several months back; she was transferred to Egypt and separated from her family in the West Bank. Talk about this reported agreement with Egypt in Samer’s case.

SF: As you said, it’s very similar to the agreement with Hana, that Samer would be deported to Egypt, and this is what will end his hunger strike and his administrative detention. But of course this deportation, according to the 4th Geneva Convention, is illegal. The occupiers cannot force the occupied people to leave the country, to leave the occupied territory, forever or for a couple of years, or for any period. This is why we were concerned that this act is illegal. They shouldn’t use deportation as an answer to solve the cases of administrative detention, especially longterm cases.

But unfortunately in both cases, the Israeli occupation forces were using the fact that Hana was, during 42 days of hunger strike, she was sexually assaulted when she was arrested. And she was threatened all the 42 days to be arrested for a long, long period of administrative detention. And we all remember that Hana was released four months after 26 months of administrative detention, before her re-arrest the secnd time. So Hana was really terrified about what would happen to her if she didn’t take the deal.

The same happened with Samer. Imagine — they offered such a deal to Samer after more than 115 days of hunger strike. And Samer was arrested before, in Jordan —  interrogated and sentenced. He suffered a lot in the arrest experience. So I think it’s not a good judgment by detainees to decide to take such deals. For them, it’s the only option.

EI: What are your biggest concerns right now for Palestinian prisoners?

SF: In the legal aspect, our concern related to the administrative detentions is that this deportation policy does not become the alternative for release for any administrative detainee. This is a dangerous issue and this is why we should put pressure against such policies and find Israel accountable.

As we described in our statement, deportation amounts to a war crime. It’s one of the grave breaches of the 4th Geneva Convention. It’s not acceptable that this becomes a norm for any case of administrative detention. This is why I say there is a big need for UN pressure, for EU diplomacy and putting pressure on the Israeli side, to stop such policies, the adminstrative detention and the deportation as well.

On the health issues, there is a serious, urgent need for putting lots of pressure on the Israeli side to stop the policy of ignoring the demands of prisoners and their hunger strike. In the case of Ayman, to release him or to be transferred immediately to a hospital to allow a physician from outside the system to visit him and to follow on a daily basis his health conditions, and to offer him the proper treatment.

Samer, still, needs treatment — as well as Hassan Safadi who also finished his hunger strike but his health condition is not much better than the other two.