Palestinian journalist on hunger strike

The Palestinian Prisoners' Society on Feb. 10 said Israel was "not showing attention or willingness" to solve the case of Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq as he entered day 77 on hunger strike. The society reiterated that the Palestinian prisoner remained in critical condition, slamming Israel for failing to make serious steps in his case and holding Israeli authorities "completely responsible" for al-Qiq's life. Al-Qiq, a 33-year-old and father of two, launched his hunger strike after being detained in November and held in Israeli prison under administrative detention without charge or trial. Over 100 Palestinians marched in solidarity with al-Qiq in front of HaEmek Hospital where the journalist is still being held under Israeli custody. Participants raised Palestinian flags and chanted slogans calling for al-Qiq's release.

Aal-Qiq on Feb. 4 rejected an Israeli court decision to temporarily suspend his detention, which would resume once his health improved. Al-Qiq said that he would not end his strike unless Israel agreed to his full release. An independent doctor who visited al-Qiq in the hospital on the same day as the court decision said he appeared close to death, according to the Israel branch of Physicians for Human Rights (PHRI) who facilitated the visit.

Amnesty International reported Feb. 9 that the PHRI doctor and hospital staff said it was "highly unusual for a hunger-striker to still be conscious and alive at this point of a hunger strike." Even if al-Qiq was treated, the group added, it may not save his life.

Following a four-day stint of forced treatment by Israeli doctors on al-Qiq in January, Palestinian leadership expressed concern that the practice would be used again as al-Qiq nears death. Despite two recommendations from HaEmek Hospital's ethics committee advising that al-Qiq be forcibly treated again, Amnesty International reported that his medical team had so far decided to respect his wishes not to receive forced treatment again. Amnesty criticized the Feb. 4 Israeli court ruling on al-Qiq's case, saying that the "suspension" appeared to be "a mere gesture, designed to offer the illusion of freedom to prompt al-Qiq to end his hunger strike."

Israel has negotiated in cases of hunger strikes launched by Palestinian prisoners in the past out of fear that prisoners' death could spark unrest in the occupied Palestinian territory, but upheaval has already gripped the territory for months. Palestinian Prisoners' Society head Qadura Fares said earlier this month that the Israeli security establishment now believes it has "nothing to lose" by failing to release al-Qiq before his death.

From Ma'an News Agency, Feb. 10.

  1. Israel rights groups see mistreatment of detained Palestinians

    Israeli human rights groups HaMoked and B'Tselem on Feb. 24 released a report detailing alleged mistreatment of detained Palestinians. The report, entitled "Backed by the System"  (PDF), gives first hand accounts of abuse reportedly suffered by more than 100 detainees in at the Shikma Prison. The report found that many individuals were arrested at their homes after midnight, subjected to violence during transport, and often blindfolded until they reached the prison:

    Sleep deprivation, sometimes for days at a time; being bound hand and foot to a chair, with movement restricted for hours on end; being subjected to shouting, swearing, threats, spitting, and indignities; exposure to extreme cold and heat; little and substandard food; being denied the possibility to shower or change clothes for days and even weeks; incarceration in a small, foul-smelling cell, usually in solitary confinement, for many days. The above are some of the standard features of interrogation at the interrogation facility run by the Israel Security Agency (ISA) [official website] at Shikma Prison in Ashkelon, southern Israel.

    The groups further allege that the Israeli government and judiciary are not only aware of the conditions and practices of the facility but that they also support them. The report calls on Israel and its supporters to prevent further abuse of detainees and adhere to previous bans on torture as an interrogation tactic.

    From Jurist, Feb. 24. Used with permission.

  2. Al-Qiq ends 94-day hunger strike

    Imprisoned Palestinian hunger-striker Muhammad al-Qiq on Feb. 26 ended a grueling 94-day hunger strike that has brought him close to death after his lawyers struck an eleventh hour deal with the Israeli authorities. Qadura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoner's Society, said that while Israel had not agreed to al-Qiq's immediate release, a "compromise" had been reached. Israel's six-month administrative detention sentence against al-Qiq will not be renewed, while his lawyers managed to change the date of his release to May 21, he said. The date will mark exactly six months since al-Qiq was detained from his home in Ramallah on Nov. 21, as opposed to six months from the date he was sentenced on Dec. 17. "The military order will be the last one," Fares said.

    He added that al-Qiq would also be allowed visits from his family, including his wife, two children, and father. Israel has also agreed to transfer the hunger-striker to any hospital in Israel, although Fares said they had not agreed to transfer him to a hospital in the occupied Palestinian territory. (Ma'an)

    The deal comes six days after an unnerving incident in which Israeli special forces accompanied by police dogs raided the Afula hospital where al-Qiq is being detained. Hanan al-Khatib, a lawyer for the PA Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said the sudden raid came after al-Qiq suffered from spasms and seizures several hours earlier, causing panic among doctors who rushed to al-Qiq's room and evacuated it. The purpose of the raid remains unclear, but al-Khatib said the raid sent out the message that Israeli authorities were aware that "Muhammad could die at any moment." (Ma'an)