prisoners on hunger strike

Israeli parliament has approved a law allowing prisoners on hunger strike facing death to be force fed. The ‘force-feeding’ law was passed by Israeli Parliament on Thursday with 46 votes to 40.

According to spokesperson of the ruling Likud Party, David Amsalem,  the new law “will be used only if a doctor determines that the continued hunger strike will create an immediate risk to the life of a prisoner or long-term damage to his health.”

The controversial law, which seeks to prevent imprisoned Palestinian militants from putting political pressure on Israeli government by refusing food, was initially approved in June 2014 at the height of a mass hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners, during which dozens were hospitalised.

While the law does not specifically mention Palestinians, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who led the legislation, argued that it was necessary since “hunger strikes of terrorists in prisons have become a means to threaten Israel.”

But opposition members decried the new measure, with the Arab Joint List of parties criticising “a law to torture Palestinian prisoners, aimed at uprooting their legitimate struggle.”

Gale of Criticisms

Expectedly, the new Israeli force-feeding law has sparked off criticisms from rights groups and medical experts. Israeli Medical Association in a statement issued shortly after the law was passed, described it as “damaging and unnecessary.” The medical group which declared that force feeding was “tantamount to torture”, insists that doctors would “continue to act according to medical ethics, which prohibit doctors from participating in torturing prisoners.”

Physicians for Human Rights in Israel has also opposed the new law, declaring that the “shameful” law revealed the “anti-democratic face” of the Israeli parliament. The group stressed that its members would continue to oppose the law and its implementation, and “support anyone who will refuse to obey the law”.

Spokeswomen for both organisations said they were considering filing petitions at the high court against the law.

Meanwhile, Palestinian prisoner rights group ‘Addameer’ said the law was a way to provide “legal cover” to Israel’s torture of prisoners. According to Addameer, the new law would allow Israeli authorities “to kill more Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike” on top of the five who have died due to force feeding in Israeli prisons in the past.

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the majority of prisoners who go on hunger strike are Palestinians in administrative detention, under which they were held for renewable six-month periods without charge.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Prison Service said there was currently one Palestinian held on administrative detention and four “security prisoners” who had been on hunger strike for over a week.

By Olisemeka Obeche (with agency reports)


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