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Gaza patient dies waiting for permit to leave

Jan. 14, 2011 5:10 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 15, 2011 10:37 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Human rights organizations in Gaza have demanded a criminal investigation into the death of a young Gaza man who died two weeks ago while he was waiting for a permit from Israel to leave the Strip for medical treatment.

Anas Saleh, 20, died on January 1 from a liver disease. He had been unconscious for several days in Gaza's Ash-Shifa Hospital before his death. His doctors had sought permission for Saleh to enter Israel for treatment.

After the request was made Israeli authorities insisted that the unconscious patient appear for questioning by the Israel Security Agency, a report from the Al-Mezan center for human rights said.

A second rights organization based in Haifa, Adalah, had its Attorney Fatmeh El-Ajou file a complaint about the incident on behalf of the victim.

Following Saleh's death, Adalah, on behalf of three rights organizations, submitted a complaint to the Attorney General of Israel, Yehuda Weinstein and to the Israeli Military Advocate General, Avichai Mendelblit, demanding the opening of a criminal investigation and prosecution of those responsible for "the suspicious death" of Saleh.

The human rights organizations argue in the complaint that the denial of an exit permit as the patient remained critical was "an act against the legal obligation to provide medical treatment to save the life of the patient, an act which brought about, or at least hastened, the death of the deceased."

In September 2010, Saleh was diagnosed with a liver disease Budd Chiari Syndrome, a clinical syndrome resulting from obstruction of the veins in the liver. Due to a lack of appropriate medical treatment in the Gaza Strip health system, the rights group said, his condition deteriorated into acute liver failure and hepatitis.

The patient was referred to the Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem. He had a hospital referral and appointment for 26 December 2010. On 13 December 2010 the family presented a request, via the Palestinian Liaison Office, to the Israeli authorities in order to obtain an exit permit from Gaza.

Thirteen days later, on 26 December 2010, the patient's hospital appointment date, the army informed the Palestinian Liaison Office that the patient must appear for interrogation by the Israel Security Agency on 30 December 2010 to further consider his request. However, on that date the patient was already unconscious and could not appear at the interrogation, the rights organization said in a statement.

The group said that the information was forwarded by the Palestinian health coordinator to the Israeli military on that same day, with a request to speed up the request procedure and to issue an exit permit from Gaza urgently.

Following the urgent request, the rights groups said the ISA "continued to insist that the patient appear for questioning."

According to testimony from Saleh's father taken by Al-Mezan, on 28 December he received a telephone call from a man who introduced himself as an ISA representative, and requested that his ill son present himself for questioning on the following day. The father informed him that his son was in a coma and asked that he be allowed to leave for medical treatment without delay.

Throughout this process, medical documents substantiating the patient’s medical condition were transmitted to the Israeli authorities, the rights groups say, noting a final medical document confirming the patient’s critical condition was sent on 29 December.
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