Palestinian hunger strikers undergo ‘punitive measures’

IssueApril 2014
News by David Polden

On 19 March, two Palestinian prisoners suspended their 69-day hunger strikes after receiving assurances that they would be released within months. Muammar Banat and Akram Fasisi told Jawad Bulous of the Palestinian prisoner’s society that the Israeli authorities had finally agreed to set time limits for their administrative detention without trial: Banat must be released by May, and al-Fseisi by August.

The two were among six prisoners who had been on hunger strike since January and were the subject of an urgent campaign by the world organisation against torture (OMCT) at the end of February. The OMCT expressed concern at punitive measures against the six including being denied recreation, family visits, and access to the prison canteen to buy basic supplies, and being subjected to frequent night raids and searches.

Two other hunger strikers, Waheed Abu Maria and Ameer Shammas, were also being detained without trial. The final two, Husam Omar and Musa Sufain, were long-term prisoners serving 30 years and life respectively, protesting against the excessive use of solitary confinement. (Both had been in solitary confinement since September.)

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners ended a long hunger strike in May 2012 after apparently winning significant concessions from the authorities, including an end to long-term solitary confinement (PN 2546). The prison authorities reneged on this deal almost immediately (PN 2547-48).

At the beginning of March, the Israeli government began public consultation on a change to the law to enable prison authorities to carry out force-feeding of hunger strikers. The Israeli medical association chair, Dr Leonid Eidelman, said: ‘Force feeding must be forbidden, as it’s a form of torture and humiliation. We oppose it by all means.’

Israeli refusers

On 8 March, 50 Israeli Jewish teenagers published an open letter to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu entitled: ‘We refuse to serve in the occupation army’. They stated that the main reason for their refusal to undergo compulsory military service in the Israeli defence forces was ‘opposition to the military occupation of Palestinian territories’, in which ‘human rights are violated, and... war-crimes are perpetuated.’

A 16-year old signatory, Mandy Cartner, was reported as saying: ‘My refusal is a way of expressing my opposition to the wrongs done daily in our name and through us.’ In the past such refusers have been punished by repeated periods of imprisonment as they repeat their refusal each time they are recalled for induction.