Palestinian women demonstrating in East Jerusalem in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners' strike. Photo by Amar Awad, Reuters, 29 April 2017.
According to media reports, approximately 150 Palestinian prisoners who are on hunger strike have recently been taken to hospital for examination after their medical condition worsened. As long as Israel continues to ignore its obligations to the prisoners and violates their rights, their medical condition will continue to deteriorate and will become dangerous.
This situation raises concern that Israel may choose to force-feed the prisoners. Force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike against their wishes is dangerous and is considered a form of torture. It is also prohibited since it violates the individual’s right to autonomy over their body and dignity, and their right to protest in the manner they choose. Declarations by the international medical community reflect the consensus that, as a general rule, the force-feeding of hunger strikers who are mentally capable and who refuse to accept treatment of their own free will is prohibited. Despite this, on 30 July 2015, the Knesset approved a law permitting the force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners under certain conditions.
Over a thousand Palestinian prisoners and detainees launched a hunger strike on 17 April. They presented a series of legitimate demands relating to the inhumane conditions in which they are held, including draconian restrictions on family visits; an absolute prohibition against “security” prisoners using the telephone; denial of access to medical and educational services at a due standard; incarceration in isolation (which is also considered torture); and improper use of administration detention, i.e. detention without trial. According to figures provided by the Israel Prison Service, Israel was holding 486 Palestinians in administrative detention as of 30 April 2017. Administrative detention is an extreme measure: administrative detainees have no way of knowing when they will be released since although each detention order is limited to six months, there is no limit on the number of times the order may be extended. Over the years, the security forces have held thousands of Palestinians in administrative detention for periods ranging from a few months to several years.
The incarceration of such a large number of Palestinians in prisons inside Israel – most of them without a fair trial, and some without any trial at all – and the draconian restrictions they face form an integral part of the occupation regime.