Jerussalem, 5 Rabi’ul Akhir 1434 H/15 February 2013 (MINA) – A United Nations official voiced their concern about Palestinian detainees in Israeli custody, particularly following reports of the fast deteriorating health conditions of several who have been on hunger strike.
A UN statement said that humanitarian coordinator James W. Rawley met in the West Bank city of Ramallah with Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqe, where Rawley expressed the United Nations continued concern about Palestinian detainees in Israeli custody.
“They discussed the situation of four Palestinian detainees currently on hunger strike and, in particular, the critical health condition of one Palestinian detainee, Samer Issawi, who has been on hunger strike for more than 200 days,” UN official said.
Palestinian prisoner support group Adameer says six prisoners held by Israel are currently on hunger strike.
Tarek Qa’adan and Jafar Azzidine have been on hunger strike for 78 days to protest against their administrative detention by Israel, while Samer Al-Issawi has been on partial hunger strike for more than 200 days, according to a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The longest serving are Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh who have been fasting for months to demand their release from imprisonment without trial.
The expert noted in a news release that Qa’adan and Azzidine are reportedly on the verge of death, “with the threat of a fatal heart attack looming.”
Both men were arrested on Nov. 22, 2012 and began their hunger strikes on Nov. 28, after being sentenced to administrative detention for a period of three months. They were transferred to Assaf Harofi Hospital near Tel Aviv on Jan. 24, 2013 after their conditions deteriorated sharply.
This is the second time that these two men have undertaken hunger strikes against administrative detention, since they took part in the mass hunger strike of Palestinians from April 17 to May 14 last year. Qa’adan was released last July and Azzidine last June, before being re-arrested.
“Israel must end the appalling and unlawful treatment of Palestinian detainees,” Rawley said. “The international community must react with a sense of urgency and use whatever leverage it possesses to end Israel’s abusive reliance on administrative detention.”
178 Palestinians in administrative detention
Rawley noted that Israel currently holds at least 178 Palestinians in administrative detention.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abass on Tuesday demanded that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon intervene to save the lives of Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners.
Abass said that he sent a written letter to Ban informing him about the critical conditions of the prisoners, urging him to intervene “quickly and seriously to solve their issue.”
The Palestinian president warned that things will “complicate and become unruly” if the demands of the prisoners are not met.
Under what Israel calls “administrative detention”, suspects can be imprisoned without trial by order of a military court.
The order can be renewed indefinitely for six months at a time. Rawley called for an end to the practise.
“The humanitarian coordinator reiterated the position of the United Nations secretary general, namely that those detained should be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees in accordance with international standards, or released without delay,” the statement said.
Last year, between 1,600 and 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israel took part in a collective hunger strike which ended with an agreement with prison administrators on May 14. (T/P04/E1)
Mi’raj News Agency(MINA)