Ramallah, 13 October 2011
As the world welcomed the conclusion of an extensive prisoner exchange deal between Israeli and Hamas authorities on 11 October, Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons resolutely entered their third week of a hunger strike, launched on 27 September in response to pronounced deteriorations in their detention conditions. Addameer is concerned that these prisoners’ dire health conditions and isolation will only be exacerbated over the next three days as Israeli prisons close during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
Indeed, while the prisoner exchange deal will be thoroughly scrutinized over the next three days, it will be completely impossible for lawyers and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegates to visit Israeli prisons during the same period because of the Sukkot holiday. As a result, until at least Sunday 16 October, there will be no independent monitoring of, or contact with, the hunger striking prisoners, some of whom are already in dismal health. Furthermore, it will be impossible to verify whether salt has been returned to prisoners who have been on a hunger strike for more than 14 days, as is required by Israeli law, an illegal measure that could significantly impact the prisoners’ health. As of 12 October, which marked the sixteenth day of the hunger strike and the last time Addameer lawyers were able to undertake visits, administrations in the visited prisons had not returned the salt to the strikers. In addition, Addameer expects that lawyer visits will be further complicated by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) during the entire period of the prisoner releases, with authorities likely to attribute this to the logistics of the releases.
Addameer is extremely concerned about the three-day period during which striking prisoners will be left completely isolated from the outside world, especially at such an advanced stage in their hunger strike. Addameer therefore urges the ICRC to intervene with the IPS to allow them to visit the prisons during the Sukkot holidays and further reminds the IPS that it will be held responsible for the striking prisoners’ life. Finally, it should be recalled that the punitive and collective measures imposed by the IPS on Palestinian political prisoners in recent months were taken directly following a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. As such, with Shalit now set to be released within the next few days, Addameer demands that the international community rally to ensure that these politically-motivated measures, which constitute collective punishment, be immediately reversed and the prisoners’ legitimate demands granted.