Concern Mounts for the Lives of Prisoners on Protracted Hunger Strikes, as Bilal Diab, Thaer Halahleh and Hassan Safadi are Subjected to Medical Negligence
Ramallah-Jaffa, 6 May 2012—Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh are at risk of death as they enter their 69th day of hunger strike in protest of their administrative detention. In spite of their rapidly deteriorating health, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) is still denying regular access to them by independent Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel)—Addameer and PHR-Israel are outraged by the blatant breach of medical ethics committed by the IPS in regards to these most urgent cases and by the negligence of the Israeli High Court judges who have yet to make a decision regarding their petition.
After continual denial of access to Bilal Diab and news of his further deterioration, PHR-Israel submitted an urgent appeal to the District Court yesterday, 5 May, demanding that the IPS allow a PHR-Israel doctor to visit him, and for his family to visit him immediately. Though Bilal is entitled to a second medical opinion, the urgent appeal was rejected and postponed until a regular hearing on 7 May. Addameer and PHR-Israel are further dismayed that personnel in Assaf Harofeh Hospital, where Bilal is currently held, are placing obstacles in front of the PHR-Israel independent doctor in her attempts to ensure that her patient, Bilal, receives trusted care during this critical period. An examination by Member of Knesset Dr. Ahmad Tibi after Bilal’s collapse on 3 May indicated that Bilal is experiencing hypothermia and losing sensation in his feet. Additionally troubling is the IPS’ refusal to transfer Thaer Halahleh to a public hospital from the Ramleh Prison medical clinic, where he is currently held.
Following the Israeli High Court hearing on 3 May regarding the petition against Bilal and Thaer’s administrative detention orders, Judge Eliakim Rubenstein noted that a decision would be made at a later time, without specifying when. As of this afternoon, there is still no decision. By ignoring the gravity of their current situation, the High Court judges are not only acting with severe negligence, but also with malicious intent. Judges Rubenstein, Noam Saulberg and Yuram Dinzinger are knowingly delaying the decision despite Bilal and Thaer’s days potentially being numbered, without even providing any certainty as to when a decision will be made.
Hassan Safadi is now on his 63rd day of hunger strike and is currently held in the Ramleh Prison medical clinic. Addameer lawyer Mahmoud Hassan succeeded in visiting Hassan today, 6 May. He noted that Hassan’s health is deteriorating and that he is very weak and cannot stand, but vows to continue his hunger strike. He is refusing any treatment or examination by prison doctors.
Hassan reported that on 3 May, he was held down by prison guards and forcefully given treatment by a prison doctor via an injection in his arm. Addameer and PHR-Israel are alarmed by this news, as forced treatment is in strict violation of the principles of medical ethics and the guidelines of the World Medical Association and the Israeli Medical Association. According to the Malta Declaration, “Physicians need to satisfy themselves that food or treatment refusal is the individual's voluntary choice. Hunger strikers should be protected from coercion. Physicians can often help to achieve this and should be aware that coercion may come from the peer group, the authorities or others, such as family members. Physicians or other health care personnel may not apply undue pressure of any sort on the hunger striker to suspend the strike. Treatment or care of the hunger striker must not be conditional upon suspension of the hunger strike.”
Hassan also recounted having refused water for a several days until he was moved to Ramleh Prison medical clinic. Upon his arrival, he was beaten by prison guards, and the prison doctor refused to record the injuries sustained from the attack. Since the beginning of his hunger strike, Hassan has had no visits from independent doctors. PHR-Israel petitioned the District Court to allow them access, and the court ordered the IPS to allow a PHR-Israel doctor a visit no later than 7 May, though when PHR-Israel tried to coordinate a visit on 4 May, the IPS denied their request.
The appeal for Jaafar Azzedine, now on his 46th day of hunger strike, was also postponed today by an Israeli military judge. The judge, who also ruled in Hana Shalabi’s case and rejected her appeal, said that he already decided in Hana’s case that he would not consider critical medical condition due to hunger strike as a reason for accepting an appeal, and that he would let the High Court judges in Bilal and Thaer’s case decide on this fact.
In light of growing concern for their lives, Addameer and PHR-Israel demand:
- the immediate transfer of Thaer Halahleh to a public hospital, and the transfer of prisoners on hunger strike for more than 40 days to hospitals, in addition to unrestricted access for lawyers and independent physicians to all hunger strikers, especially Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh;
- that no hunger striker be shackled while hospitalized;
- that all hunger strikers—especially those in advanced stages of hunger strike—be allowed family visits, while they are still lucid;
- that all information be given to families as to the medical condition of their loved ones, which is the responsibility of hospitals and medical staff in accordance with medical ethics and confidentiality standards;
- that Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, along with all other administrative detainees, be immediately and unconditionally released.