Rights group: Force-feeding is a war crime and perpetrators will be prosecuted

PCHR/ Gaza/

News is coming about the Israeli preparations to commit the force-feeding crime against hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, who have been on hunger strike for 20 days.
The Israeli media lately announced the Israeli government’s intention to recruit doctors from abroad to force-feed hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.

On 17 April 2017, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners started a hunger strike to pressurize the Israeli Prison Service in order to offer them proper detention conditions that respect their dignity and humanity.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in a statement said it follows up with deep concern the arbitrary and inhuman measures practiced by the Israeli authorities against Palestinian prisoners since the very first day of their hunger strike. These measures include but not limited to solitary confinement, threats, stress and finally the Israeli perpetrations to force-feed them. PCHR emphasizes that all the Israeli practices fall within the policy of torture as identified by Article 1 of the Convention against Torture.

PCHR stresses that it will work on prosecuting all those involved in force-feeding the prisoners on hunger strike by all available legal means. PCHR also calls upon doctors syndicates all over the world to advice its associate members not to participate in any force-feeding process and publish a statement in this regard according to their governments’ obligations under Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Convention against Torture in addition to the peremptory International norms against torture that force-feeding is a form of which.

“We are committed to prosecute those involved in the force-feeding crime, including doctors. The attempts to deprive prisoners of their last refuge to obtain their basic human rights to humane treatment through denying them their right to strike using their empty stomachs and body cells go too far with the degrading treatment against them. This is also an unjustifiable crime, and the world should not stand silent and not contribute to legalizing this crime through this silence.” Lawyer Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR.

It should be noted that the Israeli Knesset approved on 30 July 2015 a law “to Prevent Harm of Hunger Strike”, allowing force-feeding of prisoners. At that time, the Israeli Medicine Association (IMA) rejected this law and warned of enacting it in addition to advising the associate doctors not to participate in any force-feeding process. Moreover, two United Nations human rights experts today reiterated their call on the Israeli authorities not enact such law, which legalizes force-feeding of prisoners. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment underlined that “feeding induced by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints of individuals, who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike to protest against their detention, are, even if intended for their benefit, tantamount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health stressed, “Informed consent is an integral part in the realization of the right to health.”

Despite all of this, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected all the appeals filed by human rights organizations and IMA to annul this law. The Court claimed that the hunger striker does not enjoy the patients’ rights. This position proves the fact that PCHR has always emphasized that the Israeli Supreme Court is Israel’s atrocious means to legalize its crimes.

PCHR highlights that force-feeding is a war crime. Thus, those who order or participate in committing and legalizing it is involved in a war crime and should be held accountable and accordingly punished.

PCHR stresses that the attempts of force-feeding do not aim at maintaining the life of prisoners on hunger strike as claimed by the Israeli authorities, but aim at depriving them of their last means to demand their most basic human rights to proper detention conditions that maintain their dignity and humanity. This was stipulated by Article (10-1) of ICCPR, “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”

PCHR denounces the Israeli attempts to show the prisoners’ strike and demands as if they are political. PCHR emphasizes that prisoners’ cause and their humane demands are based on the most basic rights codified by the international humanitarian law, human rights conventions and all relevant intentional standards.

PCHR recalls that Israel has serious precedents in force-feeding. Many Palestinian prisoners were killed in cold blood while being force-fed.

PCHR called upon the international community, particularly the European Union, to put an end to their silence towards the Israeli recurrent violations of international law that encouraged Israel to turn a blind eye to the law and international community.

PCHR said it underscores that Israel and international community, particularly Member States to the Convention against Torture, should take full responsibility for the risks and suffering of Palestinian prisoners if the Israeli Prison Service force-fed them.

PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to convene for identifying the legal status of Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli jails in light of Palestine’s accession to these conventions. PCHR also demands them to consider the Palestinian prisoners as prisoners of war who enjoy all rights guaranteed in the Third Geneva Convention, including releasing prisoners of war without delay after the cessation of active hostilities.