UN officials voice concern over health of Palestinian detainees on hunger strike

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

UN officials voice concern over health of Palestinian detainees on hunger strike

Two senior United Nations officials today 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.

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 over 200 days, according to a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“I am concerned about the health conditions of these three Palestinian detainees on hunger strike,” stated High Commissioner Navi Pillay.

She reiterated her concerns with regard to the use of administrative detention by Israel. “Persons detained must be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees in accordance with international standards, or be promptly released,” she said.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, James Rawley, reiterated the same message today when he met with the Palestinian Minister of Prisoner and Detainee Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, in Ramallah.

They discussed the situation of the Palestinian detainees currently on hunger strike, in particular the critical health condition of Mr. Al-Issawi, said a statement issued by Mr. Rawley’s office.

Also today, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, called for the immediate release of the three Palestinian detainees on hunger strike.

“Continuing to hold Mr. Qa’adan, Mr. Azzidine and Mr. Al-Issawi under these conditions is inhumane. Israel is responsible for any permanent harm,” he warned. “If Israeli officials cannot present evidence to support charges against these men, then they must be released immediately.”

The expert noted in a news release that Mr. Qa’adan and Mr. Azzidine are reportedly on the verge of death, “with the threat of a fatal heart attack looming.” Both men were arrested on 22 November 2012 and began their hunger strikes on 28 November, after being sentenced to administrative detention for a period of three months. They were transferred to Assaf Harofi Hospital near Tel Aviv on 24 January 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 17 April to 14 May 2012. Mr. Qa’adan was released last July and Mr. Azzidine last June, before being re-arrested.

“Israel must end the appalling and unlawful treatment of Palestinian detainees. 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,” urged the Special Rapporteur.

Mr. Falk noted that Israel currently holds at least 178 Palestinians in administrative detention.

Special rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.