Israel denies Palestinian human rights lawyer access to medical treatment

The Observatory has been informed by the Defence of the Children International / Palestine (DCI/PS) of the continued denial of access to necessary medical treatment of Palestinian Human Rights lawyer Daoud Dirawi, who is currently being detained in Ketziot prison by the Israeli authorities.

According to the information received, Mr. Dirawi, who is currently being detained under a six-month administrative detention order based on secret evidence, is suffering from a serious recurring back problem that was aggravated by his prior ill-treatment and torture by Israeli soldiers. The Israeli prison authorities are refusing to allow Mr. Dirawi to receive the appropriate treatment for his back, and the pain has worsened significantly since May 2nd, 2003: Mr. Dirawi now has trouble walking, as both of his legs are affected by the pain in his back. The Ketziot prison doctor has agreed that the problem is serious, but prison authorities claim that it is not prison policy to allow access to the physiotherapy that Mr. Dirawi needs.

Mr. Dirawi reportedly underwent an operation for a slipped disc in 1999 that solved his back problems until his arrest and torture in September 2001. During his detention at the time he was given physiotherapy that alleviated the problem. After he was re-arrested in February 2003, Mr. Dirawi was severely beaten, tied in an uncomfortable position and subjected to positional abuse for approximately 20 hours in freezing weather conditions. After seeing the Atziun prison doctor, Mr. Dirawi was prescribed painkillers but was not permitted to take them by the guards. Upon his transfer to Ofer prison, Mr. Dirawi again saw a prison doctor and was again prescribed painkillers. These painkillers did not solve the problem, but, as a temporary inmate, Mr. Dirawi was not permitted to visit the doctor again. Mr. Dirawi was transferred to Ketziot prison in March 2003, after receiving a 6-month administrative detention order. He was once again prescribed painkillers by the prison doctor. Mr. Dirawi’s requests to see the doctor were again denied, and the prison nurse offered him different types of painkillers daily, in an attempt to reduce the pain. Mr. Dirawi’s back problem deteriorated and the prisoners’ representative insisted that he be allowed to see a doctor. On May 1st, the doctor agreed that his condition was �serious� and required further treatment He offered additional painkillers, and said he would ask the prison director if additional medical treatment was possible. Mr. Dirawi requested a hospital assessment but has had no response from the prison administration to this day.

The Observatory is gravely concerned for Mr. Dirawi’s physical and psychological integrity, given the pain that he is already suffering and the Israeli prison authorities’ continuing refusal to provide Mr. Dirawi with the necessary medical treatment. The Observatory recalls that his injury is the result of severe ill-treatment and torture suffered during his detention. The Observatory calls on the Israeli government to ensure that Mr. Dirawi receives the appropriate medical treatment as a matter of urgency and for him to be released immediately in the absence of valid legal, or, if such charges exist, to ensure that he receives a prompt and fair trial. Finally, the Observatory is seriously concerned by the deteriorating situation of human rights defenders prevailing in Israel, in particular against human rights lawyers.

Brief reminder of the situation

According to the information received, on 21st of February, Mr. Dirawi was arrested in the Old City of Jerusalem and taken to Qeshle Police Station near Bab al Khaleel, for not having his ID card with him. Mrs. Dirawi was told that her husband would be kept for 24 hours and then transferred to a judge. At 8am the following morning, Mrs. Dirawi called the police station and they told her that her husband had been taken by the Israeli Secret Intelligence (Shabak) and he would be kept for interrogation for 12 days. They refused to tell her where he was or to let him meet with a lawyer during this period. On the way to the prison, soldiers reportedly beat him, pushed him to the floor of the jeep, stamped on him with their boots, hitting him with their fists and rifle butts. Mr. Dirawi sustained heavy bruising and a broken lower jaw. It has been reported that at the Negev checkpoint, a Russian soldier, Mr. Strovosky, beat him even more violently in a further attack. On his arrival at Asyun military prison at 1.30am on February 22nd, Mr. Dirawi was tied up outside with his hands locked above him, a form of torture known as “shabah”. He was kept in this position throughout the freezing rain and snowstorm of that night until 8.30am. When he asked the prison guards for food, he was punished by being kept in this position for a further four hours. On February 24th, another DCI/PS lawyer was finally able to visit Mr. Dirawi.

According to the information received, Mr. Dirawi’s treatment worsened when the soldiers found out that he was a human rights lawyer. Mr. Dirawi has been working for DCI/PS as a researcher and a lawyer for 10 months. He is the coordinator of DCI/PS Juvenile Justice Program in the Palestinian Areas, a program supported by UNICEF. Prior to joining DCI/PS he was employed by Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization based in Ramallah. He is also the author of several books and research papers on Palestinian legal issues, including a pioneering study on the Palestinian State Security Court, published in 2000. At the present time, Mr. Dirawi is allegedly being held, along with 80 others in Asyun prison, without charges or trial, suffering from extreme cold, hunger and lack of medical care. Under Israeli law, Mr. Dirawi can be detained for 12 days without charges or coming before a military judge or court. The prison has no official administration, and many issues are left up to the individual soldiers.

Related Links:

  • Defense for Children International - Palestine Section
  • World Organziation Against Torture