Palestinian Leaders decry prisoners´ plight (REUTERS) By Ali Sawafta RAMALLAH, West Bank 05/08/12 3:05pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned on Tuesday
that the death of any one of the hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on
hunger strike in Israel would be a "disaster" and could trigger a
backlash that might slip out of control.
"It is very dangerous," Abbas told Reuters on a day when the Red
Cross urged Israel to transfer to hospital six detainees who it said
were close to death after not eating for two months.
"If anybody dies today or tomorrow or after a week it would be a
disaster and no one could control the situation," Abbas said in an
interview at his office in Ramallah. "I told the Israelis and the
Americans if they do not find a solution for this hunger strike
immediately, they will be committing a crime."
Joining some who began fasting earlier, an estimated 1,600
Palestinian prisoners out of 4,800 launched a mass hunger strike on
April 17 to protest against conditions in Israeli jails and to demand
an end to solitary confinement and more family visits.
The prisoners include Islamists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well
as members of Abbas´s secular Fatah movement.
The fate of the hunger strikers has touched a raw nerve in the
Palestinian territories with daily demonstrations in the occupied
West Bank and in the Gaza Strip to support the protest.
The International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva called on
Israel on Tuesday to transfer six prisoners who have forsworn food
for around two months to hospital.
All six are in prison under Israel´s long-standing policy of
detaining people without charge whom it suspects of security
offences, including plotting attacks against Israeli targets. The six
have been refusing food for between 47 and 71 days.
In a statement, the ICRC said that the six were in "imminent danger
of dying", although it upheld their right to choose whether or not
they wanted to receive treatment.
"We urge the detaining authorities to transfer all six detainees
without delay to a suitable hospital so that their condition can be
continuously monitored and so that they can receive specialized
medical and nursing care," said Juan Pedro Schaerer, head of the ICRC
delegation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
"Their main demands are for a resumption of family visits from Gaza
and for an end to solitary confinement in Israeli places of
detention," the ICRC said.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad described the plight of
prisoners as a "personal story for the Palestinians".
"The most tragic thing is if you look at the list of demands they
have presented Israel ... they are generally related to the basic
rights of prisoners," Fayyad told Reuters in a separate interview in
"There is a clear violation of the Geneva conventions."
The ICRC´s Shaerer stressed that the prisoners´ right to fast is
protected by international conventions which discourage force-
feeding: "While we are in favor of any medical treatment that could
benefit the detainees, we would like to point out that, under
resolutions adopted by the World Medical Association, the detainees
are entitled to freely choose whether to consent to be fed or to
receive medical treatment," he said.
"It is essential that their choice be respected and their human
dignity preserved," he said.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel was providing
medical treatment for the prisoners and they were free to choose
their own doctors if they wish: "But ultimately, this is not about
medical facilities," he said. "This is about hard-core activists,
from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who through this protest are trying to
On Monday, Israel´s Supreme Court turned down an appeal by two of the
But in its decision the court said Israeli authorities should
consider freeing them on medical grounds.
The scope of the hunger strike has posed a new challenge to Israel,
which has come under international criticism over detentions without
trial and could face a violent Palestinian backlash if any of the
The office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi
Pillay also voiced concern for the strikers´ fate.
"International law is clear: administrative detention should only be
used in exceptional cases and only for imperative reasons of
security. Administrative detainees have the right to challenge the
lawfulness of the detention," spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a
Independent U.N. investigators and U.N. rights bodies have raised
concerns about Israel´s frequent and extensive use of detention
without trial, including of children, infringing on detainees right
to a fair trial, Shamdasani said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Samia Nakhoul in
Ramallah; Editing by Alastair Macdonald) (© Thomson Reuters 2012.
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