Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Blog

The outcry of Palestinian prisoners held on administrative detention sheds light on Israel’s ongoing human and civil rights abuses of the Palestinian people.

Hundreds of Palestinian protesters across the West Bank have clashed with Israeli soldiers at rallies on Monday and Tuesday in support of imprisoned Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli jails. Samer Issawi, one of the four imprisoned strikers, has refused to eat for over 200 days and has lost half of his body mass, now weighing a mere 47 kilos. Surviving only on water and vitamin supplements, Issawi wrote a letter from his prison cell, stating, “my body is…cold and I can't sleep because of the continued pain. But despite the extreme fatigue and chronic headaches…there is no going back, …my detention is invalid and illegal.” Adding that his health is severely deteriorating, he wrote “the doctors told me I am exposed to stroke because of the disorder of my heartbeats, the shortage of sugar and the drop in blood pressure.”

Issawi was imprisoned by the Israeli government on suspicion of militant activity and was initially sentenced to 26 years in prison, but was released in 2011 on a prisoner exchange program after serving 6 years out of his sentence. According to the Israeli Prison Service, he was then rearrested for violating the travel limits on the terms of his release by going to a garage in the West Bank to fix his car.

Jafar Azzidine, Tareq Qa'adan, and Ayman Sharawna, like Issawi, are also on hunger strikes and are being held in administrative detention, “which means Israel has not charged them with a crime and their lawyers have no access to any information to indicate why they are being held or what allegations they need to defend.” Essentially, Issawi, Azzidine, Qa'adan, and Sharawna are being held in “legal limbo” according to Gavan Kelly, an advocacy officer from Addameer, a prisoner support and human rights association based in Jerusalem.

The Israeli Prison Service stated that “the four prisoners were in "satisfactory condition" and receiving medical treatment as needed, but they had lost the right to family visits when they began their protests.” However, the international community, including UN Chief Ban Ki-moon are “deeply concerned” about the state of the Palestinian prisoners. The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, also expressed unease over the situation, stating that the EU has a “longstanding concern about the extensive use by Israel of administrative detention orders. Under international law, detainees have the right to be informed about the reasons underlying any detention and to have the legality of their detention determined without undue delay.” The four hunger strikers could face several years in prison under an Israeli military order which states that released prisoners can also “be rearrested on the basis of secret evidence” and “can serve out the remainder of their original sentence” if they are deemed to have “committed a new offence”.

Shawan Jabarin, the executive director of the Al-Haq human rights group, described Israel’s use of administrative detention as “a secret fight – you never know what you are defending yourself against”, adding that “even your defense lawyer has no access to the information to defend you.”

Frustration over lack of transparency of Israel’s judicial process prompted a group of Palestinians to demonstrate outside the Ofer military prison in solidarity with Issawi and his fellow hunger strikers on Thursday. 20 of the demonstrators were wounded by Israeli soldiers who fired rubber bullets and threw tear gas at them. Meanwhile, Issawi’s state continues to deteriorate rapidly and has worsened after an Israeli judge rejected his release on bail this past Tuesday.

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