The Israeli authorities must investigate allegations that two Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in protest at their continued administrative detention have been ill-treated while in detention, Amnesty International said today.
Hassan Safadi and Samer al-Barq have been on hunger strike since 21 June and 22 May respectively. Independent medical examinations conducted last week found that both men were weak and that they risk death if the hunger strikes continue.
According to their lawyer, while the men are barely able to stand and use wheelchairs for their daily needs, guards have repeatedly beaten and verbally abused them while in detention at the Israel Prison Service Medical Centre in the central city of Ramleh.
Hassan Safadi’s health deteriorated on 6 August and he was transferred to Assaf Harofeh hospital, where he remains shackled to his bed – which constitutes degrading treatment prohibited under international human rights law.
"The Israeli authorities must release Hassan Safadi, Samer al-Barq and all other administrative detainees, unless they are promptly charged with recognizable criminal offences and tried in accordance with international fair trial standards," said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
"They must also investigate allegations that Hassan Safadi and Samer al-Barq have been ill-treated while in detention and ensure they are treated humanely, and not punished in any way for their hunger strike."
Detainees can be held in administrative detention without charge or trial for periods of up to six months which can be renewed indefinitely. Israel has used the measure against its citizens since 1948. Thousands of Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories have been subjected to it since 1967.
Hassan Safadi has been detained since 29 June 2011. He ended a previous 70-day hunger strike in May. Then when his administrative detention order which expired in June was renewed for another six months, he restarted his hunger strike on 21 June.
Samer al-Barq has been held in administrative detention since 2010. He ended a hunger strike after 50 days in the middle of May 2012, only to resume it days later after his detention order was renewed for a further three months.
Administrative detainees – like many other Palestinian prisoners – have been subjected to violations such as the use of torture and other ill-treatment during interrogation, as well as cruel and degrading treatment during their detention, sometimes as punishment for hunger strikes or other protests.
In addition, administrative detainees and their families must live with the uncertainty of not knowing how long they will be deprived of their liberty and the injustice of not knowing exactly why they are being detained.
Like other Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody, they have also faced bans on family visits, forcible transfer or exile and solitary confinement.
These practices contravene Israel’s international human rights obligations.
A mass hunger strike involving some 2,000 Palestinian prisoners and detainees protesting poor prison conditions, including solitary confinement, denial of family visits and detention without charge came to an end on 14 May following an Egyptian-brokered deal with the Israeli authorities.
Despite media reports suggesting that Israel had agreed that administrative detention orders of current detainees would not be renewed unless significant new intelligence information was presented, the Israeli authorities have continued to renew orders and to issue new ones.
As of the end of June 2012 there were at least 285 Palestinian administrative detainees, among them members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Human rights defenders such as Walid Hanatsheh and at least four journalists, in addition to university students and academic staff, were also among those behind bars without charge or trial.
More than 300 Palestinians are held by Israel as administrative detainees, without prospect of a trial for any criminal offence. Detention without trial continues as it has for decades. The Israeli authorities have claimed that administrative detention is used exceptionally against people who pose a great danger to security. In practice, they have employed it against thousands of people, including some who should never have been arrested. This report examines the violations associated with administrative detention.