Forcible Feeding Constitutes Torture Crime

NOVANEWS

PCHR Warns of Zio-Nazi Efforts to Legitimize Forcible Feeding against Palestinian Detainees and Calls upon the International Community to Immediately Intervene

 

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) warns of the serious implications of Israeli efforts to pass a law granting powers to the Israeli prison authorities to forcibly feed Palestinian detainees.  The bill will be presented to the Israeli Knesset on Monday, 30 June 2014, to be passed in the second reading. PCHR stresses that this bill constitutes a flagrant violation of the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and is intended to deny international and human rights demands to stop the policy of administrative detention adopted by Israel as a form of punishment against Palestinians.  These demands have notably increased following the declaration of a hunger strike by Palestinian administrative detainees, and in this context, the UN Secretary General demanded Israel to release Palestinian administrative detainees.

Israeli authorities initiated efforts to enact such law after Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli prisons declared an open hunger strike in April, in protest against detaining them without charges or trials. This bill was proposed by the Israeli Ministry of Internal Security, and it was passed in the first reading in the Israeli Knesset on 09 June 2014.

PCHR believes that forcible feeding or threatening to use it is a form of cruel and degrading treatment that is prohibited by the Convention against Torture and criminalized under the International Criminal Law.  It constitutes an unjustified violation of a detainee’s personal freedom, physical safety and right to protest and declare strikes.  Having reached the same conclusion, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Health and the ICRC demanded Israel not pass the bill of forcible feeding.

Forcible feeding constitutes a threat to the lives of detainees on hunger strike, as it is carried out by forcibly inserting a tube in the nose or the mouth to push food through it into the stomach directly.  It causes severe pains, and is often accompanied by using severe violence against the victim to cripple his/her resistance.  It is worth noting that 3 Palestinian detainees died because of forcible feeding in 1980 and 1983: Rassem Halawa; Ali al-Ja’fari; and Ishaq Marawgha.

Moreover, forcible feeding seriously violates the minimum standards of the ethics of the medical profession, and the right to abstain from receiving treatment. In this context, the World Health Assembly, Union of Israeli Hospitals and Israel Medical Association sent separate letters to the Israeli Prime Minister stressing their rejection of any law compelling physicians to forcibly feed the detainees, and indicating that forcible feeding involves violence, coercion and pains that may amount to torture.  The ICRC also warned Israeli physicians that they could be prosecuted before international mechanism if they participate in forcible feeding.  It should be noted that the Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers adopted by the World Medical Association in November 1991 stresses that medical intervention for the interest of a hunger striker must be based on his/her explicit or implicit consent and without a third party’s intervention.  The Declaration states also:

“Forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable. Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment. Equally unacceptable is the forced feeding of some detainees in order to intimidate or coerce other hunger strikers to stop fasting.”  “It is ethical to allow a determined hunger striker to die in dignity rather than submit that person to repeated interventions against his or her will.”

It is noted that Israeli physicians operating in Israeli prison do not report to the Israel Medical Association, as they report only to the Israeli Ministry of Health, which is one of the major supporters of the bill of forcible feeding.  So, the Israel Medical Association’s declaration does not represent the position of physician working in Israeli prisons, and PCHR’s follow-ups of detention conditions of Palestinians in Israeli prisons strongly indicate that physicians of prisons might be involved in many crimes and violations.  PCHR warns of possible use of this law by physicians of Israeli prisons to cover their perpetration of more crimes and violations against Palestinian detainees.

The Israeli Knesset decided on 23 June 2014 to adjourn the voting on the bill in the second and third readings to Monday, 30 June 2014, in order for the Israeli leadership to create an appropriate political atmosphere to ensure passing the law, as there is international opposition to the bill. Drafters of the bill made some amendments to the bill in an attempt to ensure passing it.  PCHR emphasizes that such proposed amendments or other one will never change the reality that forcible feeding constitutes a form of torture and an assault on the personal freedom.  PCHR calls upon the international community and concerned international and local organizations to declare their explicit rejection of any law for forcible feeding, and not to be misled by flimsy guarantees added by Israel to the bill in an attempt to pass it in the Israeli Knesset.

On 24 April 2014, 130 out of 191 Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli prisons declared an open hunger strike, joining Ayman Tbaish, who started a hunger strike on 28 February 2014, in protest against being detained without charges or trials, and to urge the international community to pressurize Israel to abolish the administrative detention policy. The detainees suspended their strike on 25 June 2014; that is, following 62 days of complete abstention form having food, depending on water and salt only.  At least 90 detainees were evacuated to hospitals.  Reasons for suspending the hunger strike have not been revealed.

It is worth noting that about 2,000 Palestinian prisoners declared a hunger strike on 17 April 2012, which continued for 28 days, demanding stopping the administrative detention policy used without any restraints to punish Palestinian activists.  At the time, more than 300 Palestinian had been placed under administrative detention, some of whom had been detained for years without charges or trials.  The prisoners suspended the strike as Israeli prison and security authorities promised to release some administrative detainees and review the cases of others.  The number of administrative detainees decreased as it dropped to 124 in July 2013, but the number has recently increased to 331 administrative detainees, 140 of whom were arrested in the past two weeks.

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