Mahmoud a-Sarsak, imprisoned in Israel for about 3 years, has been on a hunger strike for some 80 days and in danger of death

Published: 
5 Jun 2012
Updated: 
10 Jul 2012

Mhamoud a-Sarsak was released on 10 July 2012. On 19 June 2012, the media reported that Attorney Muhammad Jabarin, counsel for Mahmoud Sarsak, had reached an agreement with the Israeli authorities pursuant to which his client would stop his hunger strike and would be released on July 10th, and that meanwhile he would be under medical supervision. At that point, Sarsak ended his hunger strike.

Mahmoud a-Sarask. Photo from football team posterMahmoud a-Sarsak, imprisoned in Israel for about 3 years, has been on a hunger strike for some 80 days and in danger of death

Mahmoud a-Sarsak, age 25, a resident of the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza, has been imprisoned by Israel for the last three years under the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law of 2002. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel report that a-Sarsak, who has been on a hunger strike for some 80 days, has lost a great deal of weight and that his life is in imminent danger.

The Israel Security Agency (ISA) did not permit a-Sarsak to be checked by independent physicians, and so PHR-Israel petitioned the court to allow one of its physicians to examine him. The petition was heard on 30 May 2012 in the Central District Court in Petakh Tikvah, and Judge Abraham Tal ruled that the ISA must set a date for the examination. Yesterday, the ISA notified the organization that the examination would take place tomorrow, 6 June 2012.


Mahmoud a-Sarask's family in a video produced by IMEU

A-Sarsak, a member of the Palestinian national soccer team, was arrested on 22 July 2009 at the Erez crossing on his way to join the Balata soccer club team in Nablus. Since being arrested, a-Sarsak has not been allowed to speak with his family as the ISK prohibits security prisoners from using the telephone, and a-Sarsak’s family has not been able to visit as Israel has completely prohibited family visits for all prisoners from the Gaza Strip.

Kamel a-Sarsak, Mahmoud’s father, told B’Tselem: "As time goes by, we worry more and more about Mahmoud's emotional state and his health. We know only what we hear from the media. They arrested Mahmoud arbitrarily as a "combatant." Mahmoud is just a soccer player. He plays on the national soccer team and even played in games overseas. He also used to help his brother 'Imad who sells vegetables at the market, and was a third-year student in computers at the Al-Quds Open University. His mother and I are very sad and worried about him because of the hunger strike. In April, his mother was hospitalized due to tension and stress she is experiencing."

On 23 August 2009 an arrest warrant was issued for A-Sarsak under the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law of 2002. This law enables a person to be imprisoned without having been charged and without a trial, resembling what is known as administrative detention. However, unlike an administrative detention order, which is for a maximum period of six months and must then be renewed, a detention order under the Unlawful Combatants Law can be for an indefinite period. The law does mandate a legal review of the detention order every six months, but the burden of proof regarding the level of danger posed by the prisoner is shifted from the State to the prisoner himself, who must prove that he is not dangerous. Yet the prisoners are not informed of the charges against them and as such are unable to refute them. According to data provided by the ISA, A-Sarsak is currently the only person imprisoned under this law.

The Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law of 2002 under which A-Sarsak is imprisoned does not comport with international law, is unconstitutional, and is in any event unnecessary, since there are other statutory frameworks under which the persons to which the Law relates can be held in custody, and which infringe their human rights to a lesser extent. As such, B’Tselem has called for the repeal of the Illegal Combatants Law. B’Tselem furthermore demands that A-Sarsak be released or charged and given a fair trial.