Joint Statement on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 26 June 2015

The human rights organizations demand the end of the use of administrative detention, to withdraw the proposed Forced-Feeding Bill and the audio/video exemption bill, and to respect for the basic human rights and dignity of detainees in accordance with international law.

On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Adalah, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) are issuing this joint statement to draw attention to five urgent issues: the “Force-Feeding Bill”, Administrative Detention, the renewed hunger strike of Palestinian detainee Khader Adnan, the Israeli security services’ exemption from audio/video recording of interrogations of detainees, and torture and ill-treatment related to the closure of Gaza.


Force-feeding bill: The proposed bill to allow force-feeding passed the first reading in the Israeli Knesset in 2014. Last week, the Knesset approved the continuation of the legislative process, and the second and third (final) readings on the bill are expected next week.


If passed, the bill will legalize the force-feeding and forced medical treatment of hunger striking prisoners, in serious violation of human rights and medical ethics. The procedure misuses medicine and medical professionals for political-security objectives. Force-feeding is in direct violation of the Israeli Patient’s Rights Act and of international declarations and treaties: The Declaration of Tokyo;  the 2006 WMA Declaration of Malta; the Istanbul Protocol and the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).


In June 2014 the World Medical Association (WMA) published an urgent plea to the Prime Minister of Israel to reconsider the proposed bill, while the UN Special Rapporteurs on health and torture urged the Israeli government to refrain from force-feeding and other coercive measures that they defined as cruel and inhuman treatment.


The forced-feeding bill has been re-presented as a mechanism to quash the renewed hunger strike and avoid concessions on the treatment and conditions of imprisonment of Palestinian detainees, including family visitation, solitary confinement, and other punitive measures.


Administrative detainee Khader Adnan, who is now in Assaf Harofeh hospital, is entering his 52nd day of hunger strike. Unlike in previous hunger strikes, Adnan is following the so-called “Irish strike model” by taking in only water. According to medical literature, serious and life-threatening complications are to be expected in a water-exclusive hunger strike exceeding 42 days.


Khader Adnan – who was released from administrative detention in 2012 following a prolonged hunger strike –  was rearrested on 8 July 2014. He began his current hunger strike in response to the extension of his six-month administrative detention. Adnan’s administrative detention order has been renewed several times.


Administrative detention: As of June 2015, over 410[1] Palestinians from the OPT are being held in administrative detention by Israel. Administrative detainees are held for periods ranging from six months to several years, in which they are denied basic due process rights including the right ot be informed of the charges against them.


While international law permits the use of administrative detention in only a limited manner, Israel has abused this process against thousands of Palestinians. The number of Palestinians being held under administrative detention has more than doubled since last year. Of those being held, five are members of the Palestinian Legislative Council,[2] including MP Khalida Jarrar, which reflects Israel’s sweeping and political use of administrative detention including against Palestinian elected officials.


UN human rights treaty bodies, including the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) and the UN Human Rights Committee, have called on Israel to stop using administrative detention. The EU has also expressed concern about Israel’s continued use of administrative detention.


Audio/video recordings: The Knesset rapidly approved the first reading of a bill to extend a law, which expires on 4 July 2015 that exempts Israeli security authorities from audio-video recording interrogations of detainees suspected of security-related offenses. Although the law is classified as a temporary order, the law has continually been extended since 2002. In February 2013, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by human rights organizations to cancel the exemption.[3]


The legislation raises serious concerns as to the protection of detainees from torture and CIDT within the context of interrogation, the extraction of false testimonies, and the protection of detainees’ due process rights.[4] The legislation is a blatant violation of detainees' rights and allows the security authorities to avoid transparency, oversight and accountability under the guise of security needs. The UN CAT expressed its sharp criticism of the sweeping exemption in its concluding observations to Israel in May 2009, and further asked questions regarding the issue in its List of Issues to Israel in June 2012.


Torture and CIDT: Within the context of the illegal closure imposed on Gaza since 2007 the human rights organizations continue to document the delays and denial of medical care, due to Israeli restrictions, to many Gazans seeking medical care outside of Gaza. Further, the Israeli authorities arrest some patients at the Erez crossing to Israel and/or coerce them to provide information on their friends and family in exchange for entry permits. This systematic obstruction of access to essential medical care amounts to torture and CIDT. Further, during Israel’s military offensive on Gaza in the summer of 2014, Al Mezan documented 81 cases of arrest where severe physical torture and other forms of physical and psychological pressure were used during arrest and in interrogation.


The human rights organizations reassert that there is never an acceptable reason for the use of torture or ill-treatment. International law absolutely prohibits torture and CIDT without exception.


As reiterated by the UN Commission of Inquiry into the 2014 military offensive, the closure of Gaza must be immediately and fully lifted and the systematic obstruction of access to essential medical care must stop. Further, the human rights organizations demand the end of the use of administrative detention, to withdraw the proposed Forced-Feeding Bill and the audio/video exemption bill, and to respect for the basic human rights and dignity of detainees in accordance with international law.


[1] Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

[2] Ibid