Two hunger strikers in administrative detention face ‘imminent danger to lives’ as Gazans rally

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
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After a weekly sit-in by families of Palestinian detainees in Gaza’s International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) headquarters, hundreds marched to the nearby United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) office this morning, briefly blocking its entrance before delivering a letter to its representative in the Gaza Strip.

The demonstration, organized by the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces coalition, continued a week of local actions in solidarity with Palestinian detainees that began yesterday.

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(Photo: Joe Catron)

It closely followed a joint statement by Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq, and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-IL), which warned yesterday that the lives of administrative detainees Samer al-Barq, now on his 105th day of a continuous hunger strike, and Hassan Safadi, on his 75th, are in “[i]mminent danger”:

According to Addameer lawyer Fares Ziad following his visit to Ramleh prison medical clinic on 30 August, Samer was too weak to meet with him and could not get out of bed. Mr. Ziad met with Hassan and fellow hunger striker Ayman Sharawna, who is on his 64th day of hunger strike today. During their visit, Hassan told Mr. Ziad that both he and Samer had recently been taken to Assaf Harofeh hospital for a few days due to the further deterioration of their conditions and doctors informed them that their lives were under immediate threat.

Hassan is experiencing such extreme fatigue that he is unable to sleep, and instead falls unconscious 2-3 times each day. Due to slow heart rate and severe potassium deficiency, Hassan was taken to Assaf Harofeh for testing from 27-29 August. Troublingly, Hassan was told by the doctors in the hospital that the tests revealed that his immunity level has fallen dangerously low; there is fluid in his lungs; and he has developed problems in his liver and kidneys including kidney stones. He is also experiencing chronic pain in his upper waist and joints.

While in the hospital, Hassan was shackled by all four limbs to the hospital bed. He noted that four soldiers were in his room at all times and that they made as much noise as possible and ate and drank in the room. When he asked them to be quieter, they simply mocked him. After receiving the results of his tests, doctors in the hospital told Hassan that the full responsibility of his condition lies on Hassan since he refuses to break his strike. Addameer, Al-Haq and PHR-IL categorically hold Israel accountable for Hassan and the other hunger strikers’ current conditions.

During his visit with Ayman Sharawna, Mr. Ziad learned that prison doctors informed Ayman that his life is also at risk. Ayman noted that in addition to very low immunity levels and cirrhosis in his liver, he suffers from terrible joint pain and back pain from previous chronic conditions, and that the IPS doctors refuse to give him pain medication until he stops his hunger strike. According to Ayman, the pain is so severe that he has been unable to stand on his own since the middle of August.

During the visit of PHR-IL lawyer Muhammad Mahajne on 28 August, Ayman reported experiencing constant vertigo, severe headaches, high blood pressure and extreme weight loss of about 28 kilos from his original weight. Ayman also reported that he was taken to Assaf Harofeh hospital three times during his hunger strike, and that he was told that he is starting to develop a kidney problem.

Furthermore, Ayman reported that during each hospitalization he was shackled to the hospital bed by three limbs, humiliating treatment that is also extremely uncomfortable and prevents Ayman from moving freely in his bed. Ayman is still denied access to an independent doctor as well as family visits. All three hunger strikers are now held in the same isolation cell in Ramleh.

Amnesty International said in a separate statement Friday that al-Barq and Safadi “are in grave danger as their health deteriorates. They are protesting against their detention without charge or trial and repeated incidents in which they say they were ill-treated by Israel Prison Service (IPS) guards as punishment for their protest.”

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(Photo: Joe Catron)

Both al-Barq and Safadi also joined the mass Karameh (Dignity) hunger strike immediately before launching their current ones, al-Barq for 30 days and Safadi for 71.

This morning Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network called for international actions demanding their release, along with that of Ayman Sharawna, saying that the three administrative detainees:

are protesting the Israeli violations of the May 14 agreement (and prior agreements) between the prisoners’ movement and the Israel Prison Services. One of the provisions of that agreement was that current prisoners held under administrative detention would not have their detention renewed, and that long-term hunger strikers like Safadi’s detention would particularly not be renewed. However, on May 21 – only one week after the agreement – al-Barq’s administrative detention order was renewed and he relaunched his hunger strike. He was joined by Safadi on June 21, when his own administrative detention order was renewed.

Ayman Sharawna, on the other hand, was released in October 2011 as part of the large prisoner exchange agreement. However, he was re-arrested shortly thereafter, in January 2012, and has been held without charge since that time. He launched his own hunger strike on July 1, the six month anniversary of his arrest.

Urgent action is needed to protect the lives of these Palestinian prisoners. They have been held together in an isolation cell that is 1.8 meters by 1.5 meters and no room for a wheelchair, and are currently shackled hand and foot to their hospital beds, even as their doctors report severe health threats to their lives. It is urgent that we act now to free Samer, Hassan and Ayman and secure them much-needed health care.

The prisoners’ movement also plans to respond to Israel’s breach of the Karameh deal. The Palestine Information Centre reports that its representatives have:

revealed a plan to escalate gradually protest steps against the prison administrations’ delay in implementing the “Dignity” agreement by which the prisoners ended a hunger strike.

The Waed society for prisoners and ex-prisoners quoted those prisoners as saying that a month long “saving the strike” campaign would kick off soon that would include returning meals, not cooperating with the prison administrations, and others.

They said that the protests would culminate with the start of a new hunger strike by 200 prisoners, adding that the number would then rise gradually.

Waed warned of the continued deterioration in the conditions of those prisoners, calling for massive solidarity rallies to back up those prisoners’ demands and to expose the Israeli oppressive policy against them.

About Joe Catron

Joe Catron is a US activist in Gaza, Palestine, where he works with Palestinian groups and international solidarity networks, particularly in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and prisoners' movements. He co-edited The Prisoners' Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts by detainees freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange, blogs at joecatron.wordpress.com and tweets at @jncatron.

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3 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    September 4, 2012, 1:20 pm

    his 105th day of a continuous hunger strike? how do people survive this? and what is the point of shackling a person by 4 limbs after 75 days of a hunger strike? other than gruesome humiliation?

  2. dbroncos
    September 4, 2012, 9:01 pm

    The evils of Israeli fascism at work. Meanwhile, at the Democrat Convention, the Party faithful are singing Israel’s praises – la la la – and the band plays on…

  3. Matthew Graber
    September 5, 2012, 12:43 am

    Early rumbles of a third intifada?

    “Hamas calls for confronting the Israeli attempts to judaize al Khalil” link to occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com

    And then week-long demonstrations in Gaza in solidarity with the hunger strikers, as the young man in Gaza has just burned himself to death.

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