What human rights? My sick son is being held on secret charges in an Israeli prison

Muamar Orabi Nakhla

Israel has ignored demands from the United Nations and the European Union. I need U.S. help to bring my son home to seek medical treatment.

My son Amal is in an Israeli prison, where his life is at risk. My family and I are trying to free him.

For a year now, Amal has been held under administrative detention, meaning that he is imprisoned without charge, without trial, on the pretext of secret evidence we cannot see. This is documented by the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We do not know what he is accused of, or whether he will ever be released. The military court system can keep renewing his detention indefinitely – the last time was in January, just before his 18th birthday.

Amal has myasthenia gravis, a rare neuromuscular disorder that causes such severe muscle fatigue that it can be hard to breathe or swallow food. When he had a lung tumor removed in July 2020, we were told he needed regular check-ins with both an oncologist and a neurologist to adjust his medication. We do not know what kind of medical treatment he is receiving in prison. When his medication was changed, we learned about it only after the fact.

Suffering in prison

The last time I was able to see him, at the Ofer Prison, he looked exhausted and weak, which pained my heart beyond what words can describe. During the last year I was allowed to visit him only twice, for only short periods.The visits took place behind a glass window and I could not give him a hug.

On Jan. 25, we learned that Amal had caught COVID-19 in jail. Over the past year, Israeli authorities disregarded repeated calls to release Amal that highlighted the grave risks he would face if infected, given his medical condition. Amal’s condition means he cannot take the Covid-19 vaccine.

On Jan. 26, instead of being released or even sent to a hospital, he was transferred to a medical clinic at another prison.

I feel the pain and helplessness of a father whose son is withering away and who is unable to do anything to save him. I wake up in the middle of the night worried that my son will die in detention without his medication, without the touch of a loving and caring hand, but under the merciless hand of prison guards who could not care less about his pain or my family’s.

Our lawyer has been unable to find out what Amal is accused of. In most of the hundreds of cases each year where Israel jails Palestinian children, they are accused of throwing stones.

Amal was beaten and detained in 2020, and military judges ordered his release, unconvinced by the prosecution’s attempts to portray him as a threat.

But under administrative detention, Amal can’t even get his day in a military court. Which makes me wonder: Is justice being served, or is it the law of the jungle? In a world where due process of the law is denied – under Israeli occupation in the West Bank – there is no room for justice.

Achieving justice for Amal

There is no sanity or humanity in inflicting this suffering upon my son and upon my family. At this moment, I can only think of Amal in this cold weather: Is he cold? Is he in pain? Did they give him a hot drink, a warm blanket?

A crime is being committed by Israel against Amal as I write these words. He is threatening to go on hunger strike if the Israeli authorities continue his unlawful detention. He feels that he has nothing to lose, and he sees no hope for justice. The hunger strike is a desperate move. I am trying to find ways to bring justice and hope to this brutal situation.

Israeli politicians have ignored demands for Amal’s immediate release from the United Nations and the European Union, but if Thomas Nides, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, or Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanded Israel to respect Amal’s human rights by releasing him, they might save his life. He is detained unlawfully by a brutal regime. He is a teenager, and he is very ill.

I need your help to bring my son home because I want to seek medical treatment for him, and I want his ordeal to end, but also because no human being should be treated this way.

Muamar Orabi Nakhla, 50, is a Palestinian journalist and lawyer. He has two sons, Osama and Amal.

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