Addameer: urgent action needed as Israel’s top court rejects appeal of men on 71st day of hunger strike

Thaer Halahleh

The Palestinian human rights and prisoner advocacy organization Addameer issued a dire warning today (full text below) on the condition of Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab, who are both on their 71st day of hunger strike and at immediate risk of death after the Israeli high court — the highest court of the apartheid state — rejected a petition challenging the detention orders against the men.

Halahleh and Diab have been on hunger strike in protest of being held without charge or trial — a practice known as administrative detention and a prominent feature of the Israeli occupation’s regime of arrest and detention. Halahleh is reported to have stopped drinking water and taking medicine on his 70th day of hunger strike.

Israeli court rubber-stamps unjust orders based on “secret evidence”

By rejecting the appeal despite the judge’s reservations about the state’s case against Halahleh and Diab, the court demonstrated its complicity with the Israeli occupation’s regime of military courts and detention orders based on secret evidence not revealed to detainees or their counsel. As Addameer notes in its statement today, “Nevertheless, the High Court judges do not give this matter consideration when deciding to refuse the petition so as not to interfere with the decision of the military commander signing their administrative detention orders.”

Hunger striker forcibly injected

Addameer also reports today that an urgent appeal submitted by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel demanding that Bilal Diab immediately receive a family visit while he is still able to communicate was rejected. Meanwhile, Hassan Safadi, now on his 65th day of hunger strike in protest of administrative detention, received his first independent doctor’s visit, during which it was confirmed that Safadi “was forcefully injected with fluids containing salt, glucose and other minerals last week,” and that the man is currently in critical condition. Several other political prisoners who are more than a month into their hunger strikes have yet to receive independent doctor visits.

The prisoners rights group adds that the Israeli Prison Service is punishing those participating in the mass hunger strike which is now into its 22nd day after it was launched on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, 17 April.

Bilal Diab

Not forgotten, despite “international community” silence

For more on some of the Palestinian political prisoners — all individuals whose families are incomplete as long as they remain behind Israeli bars — currently on hunger strike, read Linah Alsaafin’s Dying to Live: Stories of our Hunger Strikers. And for an idea of what hunger stikers go through when they make the extraordinary choice to sacrifice their lives for freedom, read Shahd Abusalama’s translation of a diary being kept by Loai Odeh, a former political prisoner who went on hunger strike in Israeli prison last year who is undertaking a solidarity strike along with others in Gaza City. And in contrast to the complicit silence of the so-called international community, Palestinians have not forgotten the national heroes inside the prisons and are showing their support for them in the streets.

Addameer’s full statement issued today follows:

Palestinian Prisoners’ “Battle of the Empty Stomachs” Continues: Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab Surpass 70 Days on Hunger Strike

Ramallah, 8 May 2012 - Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab’s petitions to the Israeli High Court regarding their administrative detention orders were rejected yesterday, four days following their High Court hearing on 3 May. Thaer and Bilal are on their 71st day of hunger strike and at immediate risk of death. In complete disregard to their critical medical condition, the High Court judges stated in their decision that the hunger strikes do not provide reason for releasing Thaer and Bilal from administrative detention or reducing the period of detention. 

In the decision, Judge Eliakim Rubenstein attempts to distract from the court’s complicity in contributing to the imminent threat on their lives by claiming that the court fully understands the difficulty of being held in administrative detention. Judge Rubenstein admits to weaknesses in the investigations into both Thaer and Bilal’s cases; these admitted errors serve as further evidence to cast into doubt the information and sources that the Israeli security service relies on for cases of administrative detention in general, and these two cases in particular. Nevertheless, the High Court judges do not give this matter consideration when deciding to refuse the petition so as not to interfere with the decision of the military commander signing their administrative detention orders. Judge Rubenstein further attempts to sugarcoat the High Court decision by suggesting that a request be made to a special committee for Thaer and Bilal to be released on the grounds that they might be close to death, knowing full well that by law this procedure only applies to sentenced prisoners and not to administrative detainees. In reality, the decision only serves as further justification and legal cover for the arbitrary policies of the Israeli occupation and its crimes.

On the same day, an urgent appeal submitted by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) demanding that Bilal immediately receive a visit from his family while he is still able to communicate was rejected, with additionally troubling indications that he may be transferred back to Ramleh Prison medical clinic from Assaf Harofeh hospital. Thaer has yet to be transferred to a public hospital, in direct contravention to the independent PHR-Israel doctor’s recommendations.

Hassan Safadi, now on his 65th day of hunger strike also in protest of his administrative detention, was permitted a visit for the first time by an independent PHR-Israel doctor yesterday evening. During the visit, the doctor confirmed that he was forcefully injected with fluids containing salt, glucose and other minerals last week. She noted that he is in critical condition and recommended his immediate transfer to a public hospital. Though none have yet been permitted to receive visits from independent doctors, the Israeli District Court judge ruled yesterday that Omar Abu Shalal, currently on his 63rd day of hunger strike, Mohammad Taj, currently on his 52nd day of hunger strike, and Jaafar Azzedine, currently on his 48th day of hunger strike, will be permitted visits by PHR-Israel within three days.

Addameer lawyer Mahmoud Hassan also visited Mahmoud Sarsak, currently on his 51st day of hunger strike, and Jaafar Azzedine yesterday in Ramleh Prison medical clinic. Mahmoud Sarsak, who is on hunger strike in protest of being held without charge or trial under Israel’s Unlawful Combatants Law, is very weak and experiencing blurriness in his vision. He had recently been transferred to Assaf Harofeh hospital for examinations of his pancreas, as he had been vomiting for the past five days, especially after drinking water. Jaafar reported that he is experiencing dizziness and has head pain as a result of his injury from falling to the ground, in addition to pain in his chest. He also has a high fever and severe pain in his hip and kidneys.

After visiting Ofer prison yesterday, Addameer lawyer Fares Ziad reported that punitive measures against all hunger striking prisoners, now on their 22nd day of mass hunger strike, continues, including daily attacks by Israeli Prison Service special forces. Despite having arranged and confirmed a visit with Thalassemia patient Mohammed Suleiman, the prison authorities told Fares that Mohammed had been transferred elsewhere for medical examination and refused to disclose the specific location. Mohammed had been refusing treatment for his Thalessemia in protest of his administrative detention.

Addameer reiterates its grave concern for the lives of all hunger striking prisoners on protracted hunger strikes, especially for Bilal Diab, Thaer Halahleh, and those who have yet to receive any examinations by independent doctors. Addameer holds the Israeli Occupying Forces accountable for hunger strikers’ life-threatening conditions and also holds the international community responsible for not taking further action to save their lives. The events of this week offer additional proof that Israeli institutions, from the Israeli Prison Service to the High Court, act based on predisposed and uniform positions, in utter disrespect to basic standards of human rights. Addameer urges the United Nations and all States to hold Israel accountable, as per their duty in guaranteeing the protection of international human rights and humanitarian law.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.