After 56 days on hunger strike, Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq is now losing consciousness intermittently and constantly vomiting acid from his empty stomach. He cannot walk without assistance and his hearing and sight have weakened.
Al-Qiq, a 33-year-old journalist, is undertaking a hunger strike to protest being held without charge or trial under an administrative detention order issued by an Israeli military court late last year. Administrative detention is a relic of the British Mandate used by Israel to indefinitely imprison Palestinians on the basis secret evidence.
On Saturday, 16 January, an Israeli military court rejected al-Qiq’s appeal to end his detention. The judge made his decision without considering his critical condition, or that he is a journalist, according to the prisoners’ rights group Addameer.
The military prosecution claims secret evidence proves al-Qiq used his work as a journalist for the purposes of incitement.
Al-Qiq has authored opinion pieces for local Palestinian and Arab news outlets expressing support for resistance and the current escalation of confrontation with Israel.
In response to his strike, the Israel Prison Service, IPS, has refused to allow al-Qiq’s family, from the Hebron area of the occupied West Bank, to visit him.
IPS has also made it onerous for Physicians for Human Rights-Israel to obtain permission for an independent doctor to see al-Qiq and assess the long-term health consequences of his strike.
But attorney Samer Sam’an, working on behalf of PHR and Addameer, visited al-Qiq on Monday and reported that the hospital where he is being held forcibly administered treatment for four continuous days, violating medical ethics that prohibit treatment without informed consent.
“In medical ethics, it carries the same weight as force-feeding,” PHR’s Amany Dayif told The Electronic Intifada.
On 10 January, the prison guards at HaEmek Medical Center, a civilian hospital, tied al-Qiq to his bed while a medical team put an IV into his arm to administer salts and minerals. Al-Qiq was left shackled to his hospital bed for four days, while pleading with the hospital staff to remove the IV.
Dayif told The Electronic Intifada that forcibly administering salts and minerals by IV may further endanger a hunger striker’s life.
It was only on the fifth day that the hospital removed the IV and allowed al-Qiq to get up, use the bathroom and take a shower.
Sam’an also reported that the hospital staff has been applying significant pressure on al-Qiq to break his hunger strike, going so far as to bring food to his bed, halting only when the prisoner’s lawyer intervened.
Last week, a representative for the Palestinian Authority warned that Israel was forming a medical team to force-feed al-Qiq.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, legalized force-feeding last year.
However, PHR has reported that no such threat is imminent. In a response to an inquiry by PHR, HaEmek hospital asserted they have no intention to force-feed al-Qiq, as it violates their ethics standards and Israel’s Patients Rights Act.
But PHR emphasizes the contradiction in the hospital’s stated commitment to medical ethics while engaging in forcible treatment and pressuring al-Qiq to end his strike.
The World Medical Association’s Malta Declaration forbids both applying pressure to end a hunger strike and forced medical treatment. The United Nations’ Istanbul Protocol stresses the need for physicians to obtain informed consent from competent patients before conducting any medical treatment.
25 days of torture
A journalist with the Saudi news agency Al Majd, al-Qiq was arrested on 21 November in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers in his home in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Al-Qiq’s home was ransacked, and he was blindfolded as they took him to a nearby settlement where they forced him to wait outside for the next 20 hours.
His torture and interrogation began immediately, according to Addameer. Each day, he would be placed in a stress position for seven hours. He was threatened with sexual violence and further detention. His hunger strike began on the fourth day of his interrogation, in protest of his treatment.
After more than three weeks of daily interrogation, he was placed in solitary confinement in Megiddo prison, and only then was he placed under administrative detention.
After a little more than three weeks on hunger strike, his health had deteriorated and he was transferred to Ramleh prison clinic and then to the HaEmek hospital, where he remains.
Al-Qiq has been arrested four times since 2003. In 2008, he was sentenced to 16 months on charges related to his activism while a student at Birzeit University.
Addameer described his detentions as “part of a collective arrests campaign that targeted all Palestinians since the beginning of the popular Palestinian uprising in October 2015. This campaign is a systematic policy and a method of collective punishment.”