Israel enacted "Force-Feeding Law" to break the will of Palestinian detainees on hunger strike against inhumane conditions

Adalah and Al Mezan: "With this new law, Israel sanctions torture and ill-treatment." Force-feeding resulted in the death of 3 prisoners on hunger strike in past decades.

Yesterday, 30 July 2015, the Israeli Knesset enacted the "Force-Feeding Law", introduced by the Ministry of Public Security, which authorizes the forcible feeding of hunger striking prisoners. The new law, an Amendment to the Prisons Act (Preventing Damages due to Hunger Strikes), empowers the court to permit doctors who treat prisoners on hunger strike to feed them against their will, which violates the Patients’ Rights Law.


Adalah commented on the law that: "Today Israel passed legislation that sanctions the torture of hunger strikers. The law enables the state to break a prisoner’s will by violating his/her human rights, including the right of autonomy over one’s body, in order toe deprive prisoners of the only means of peaceful protest they have left at their disposal. If Israel wants to end hunger-strikes, it should address the grievances prompting the strikes, end its practice of administrative detention without charge or trial, and provide humane conditions for Palestinian prisoners, instead of using criminal methods that violate medical ethics and international law."


Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza stated that, "Force-feeding is a form of torture and abuse, and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and internationally accepted standards of medical ethics. The intent of the law is to permit the torture of Palestinian detainees, and represents another instance of Israel circumventing its legal obligations. It adds yet another crime to a series of crimes committed against the Palestinians suffering under Occupation."


Prior to the passage of the law, two UN human rights experts reiterated their call on the Israeli authorities to stop the process of legalizing force-feeding and forced medical treatment of detainees on hunger strike. In a press release issued on 28 July 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Prof. Juan E. Méndez, stated that, “feeding induced by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints of individuals, who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike to protest against their detention, are, even if intended for their benefit, tantamount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” The UN Special Rapporteur on Health, Daninius Puras, said that,  “Under no circumstance will force-feeding of prisoners and detainees on hunger strike comply with human rights standards. Informed consent is an integral part in the realization of the right to health.”


These calls join the position of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which state that force-feeding is a form of torture and cruel and degrading treatment. The World Medical Association prohibits doctors from participating in force-feeding.


Notably, in the 1970s and 1980s, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) tried to use the force-feeding of prisoners to suppress hunger strikes, which resulted in the death of three prisoners: 'Abd Al- Qader Abu Al-Fahem (11/05/1970), Rasem Halawi (07/20/1980) from Jabaliya, and Ali Al-Jaafari (07/24/1980) from Nablus.


The “Force Feeding Law” is the latest in series of Israeli practices that aim to break the will of Palestinian prisoners and detainees by through torture and ill-treatment, and that blatantly violate the Convention against Torture, which Israel ratified.


On 4 July 2015, Israel enacted another new law that extends a “temporary order” put in placed 13 years ago, which exempts the Israeli security services (GSS, Shin Bet, Shabak) from audio/video recording of interrogations of Palestinian detainess. Adalah, together with six other human rights organizations, submitted a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court against the constitutionality of this law on 19 July 2015.  (See HCJ 5014/15, Adalah, et. al. v. Minister of Public Security, et. al. (case pending)).  This exemption provides a green light for interrogators to use torture tactics with impunity, and is a further proof of the continuing discrimination on the basis of ethnicity within the State of Israel.


See also: Joint Statement of Adalah, Al Mezan and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel on the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture, 26 June 2015: here


(Cartoon by Carlos Latuff)