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UN slams force-feeding of hunger strikers as human rights 'violation'

Aug. 9, 2015 5:48 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 9, 2015 8:31 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The UN on Saturday strongly condemned a new Israeli law allowing prisoners to be force fed, a day after Israeli authorities declared their intention to use the procedure on a Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike more than 50 days.

The UN said in a statement that "the right to peaceful protest is a fundamental human right" that the new Israeli law violated.

The Israeli Knesset passed the law on July 30. While it does not specifically mention Palestinians, Israel's Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the legislation was necessary since "hunger strikes of terrorists in prisons have become a means to threaten Israel."

The UN said: "The law potentially affects all detainees but particularly Palestinian detainees who have resorted to hunger strikes to protest their conditions, including their prolonged detention on administrative orders without charge."

It added: "Hunger strikes are a non-violent form of protest used by individuals who have exhausted other forms of protest to highlight the seriousness of their situations."

The Israeli authorities on Saturday declared their intention to force feed Palestinian prisoner Muhammed Allaan, who has been on hunger strike 56 days protesting his administrative detention.

The day before, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned that the alleged Islamic Jihad activist, who has been held without trial or charge since November, was "at immediate risk" of death.

The UN statement was jointly signed by the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid in Palestine, Robert Piper, the head of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' office in Palestine, James Turpin, and Dr. Gerald Rockenschaub, the head of the World Health Organization's office in Palestine.

It highlighted past UN condemnations of force-feeding, including one by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Puras, who found that "under no circumstance will force-feeding of prisoners and detainees on hunger strike comply with human rights standards."

The statement also pointed out that the Israeli Medical Association views force-feeding as tantamount to torture.

The Israeli law was initially approved in June 2014 at the height of a mass hunger strike of Palestinian detainees, during which dozens were hospitalized.

It was designed to prevent imprisoned Palestinian prisoners from pressuring the Israeli authorities by refusing food.

Last month, Israel released Khader Adnan following a 56-day hunger strike, also carried out against the practice of administrative detention.

His strike, which brought him near death by the time it concluded last month, was the second he had undertaken, following a 66-day long hunger strike in 2012 that also ended in his release.

The UN statement added that "the practice of administrative detention is incompatible with international human rights law and should be ended. All detainees should be promptly charged or released."

Around 5,750 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails, over 400 of whom are held under administrative detention.
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