Children march from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)'s Gaza Strip headquarters to the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) office in a demonstration for Palestinian detainees on hunger strike.Photo: Joe Catron
September 1, 2012
"Hunger-striking administrative detainees Samer al-Barq and Hassan Safadi are in grave danger as their health deteriorates," a statement by Amnesty International said Friday:
They are protesting against their detention without charge or trial and repeated incidents in which they say they were ill-treated by Israel Prison Service (IPS) guards as punishment for their protest.
Samer al-Barq and Hassan Safadi, on hunger strike since 22 May and 21 June 2012 respectively, were transferred from the IPS Medical Centre in Ramleh prison to Assaf Harofeh public hospital on 27 August. Samer alBarq’s lawyer said he is on a drip, but has not received or been told he will receive the specialized medical treatment he requires. Prior to his transfer, he was suffering from liver problems, and had a low pulse rate and low blood pressure. Hassan Safadi was also suffering from liver problems and was unable to straighten his back.
According to Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the two detainees have faced violent repression from their captors:
In a visit with Addameer lawyer Fares Ziad on 14 August, Mr. Safadi recounted the most recent violent incident, which had occurred the previous day. At approximately 9:00 am on 13 August, IPS guards entered the isolation room that Mr. Safadi shares with fellow administrative detainee Mr. Al-Barq in Ramleh prison medical clinic and announced their intentions to move the two hunger strikers to a room with other prisoners in the medical clinic who are not on hunger strike. Mr. Safadi and Mr. Al-Barq refused the transfer, as they considered it an attempt to further pressure them to break their hunger strikes by surrounding them with individuals who would be regularly eating in front of them.
Al-Barq is on his 103rd day of continuous hunger strike, while Safadi is on his 73rd. Both also joined the mass Karameh hunger strike immediately before launching their current ones, Al-Barq for 30 days and Safadi for 71.
After refusing to be moved, the Israeli prison guards attacked both Mr. Safadi and Mr. Al-Barq. During the attack, Mr. Safadi’s head was slammed against the iron door of the cell two times, causing him to fall to the ground, unconscious. Prison guards then dragged him through the hall to be seen by all the other prisoners. Later that night, at around 10:00 pm, Mr. Safadi and Mr. Al-Barq were taken to a new isolation room with no mattresses.
As a result of this cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, Mr. Safadi subsequently announced that he would no longer be drinking water, which had so far been his only sustenance throughout his hunger strike. To protest the IPS’s brutality, the other prisoners in Ramleh also began to return their meals.
Mr. Safadi and Mr. Al-Barq both remain on hunger strike in protest against their administrative detention orders being renewed following the conclusion of Palestinian prisoners’ mass hunger strike in May. Mr. Safadi had been explicitly included in the agreement ending the hunger strike and had been guaranteed his release following the expiration of his order at the time - a promise that was not kept. A final decision regarding Mr. Safadi’s extension has been consistently postponed by an Israeli military judge and has not been reached to date.
The Israeli Prison Service has also withheld pain medication from a third hunger striker, Ayman Sharawna, offering instead to trade it for an end to his 63-day strike:
The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) reported that the clinic at the Ramla Prison is trying to bargain with an ailing hunger striking detainee, and told him that he will be able to get the needed injection should he end his strike.
The PPS said that detainee Ayman Sharawna, who has been on hunger strike for 63 days, stated that he will not allow the Prison Administration to force him end his strike in exchange for medication despite his pain and deteriorating condition.
It added that Sharawna was one of the detainees who were released by Israel under the prisoner swap deal that secured the release of Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit, in return for the release of over a thousand Palestinian detainees. He was first taken prisoner in 2002 and was sentenced to 38 years.
Sharawna is suffering from sharp pain in his back, his kidneys, and lost 25 kilograms. He is currently only drinking water.
He was supposed to be sent to court on August 25, but the prosecution delayed the court session until September 8. Sharawna is currently held without charges.
Resistance by Palestinian detainees continues to escalate, as the Voice of Russia has reported a "riot" by 300 in Ketziot Prison. Ketziot is notorious for an October 2007 "training exercise" intended to increase "morale" and "motivation" among jailors, that included brutal attacks on at least dozens of sleeping detainees and the killing of one, Muhammad Ashqar.
Joe Catron is a U.S. activist in Gaza, Palestine, where he works with Palestinian groups and international solidarity networks, particularly in support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and prisoners’ movements. He blogs at http://joecatron.wordpress.com/ and tweets at @incatron.