Political prisoners

Support for political prisoners on hunger strike

Latest urgent appeal from Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, 10th September 2012

Since Khader Adnan went on hunger strike on 17th December in protest at his administrative detention we have seen an unprecendented wave of ongoing hunger strikes, reported almost every week on the JfJfP website. Some of these postings are linked to here.

JfJfP has written letters/issued statements:

22 Feb: We endorsed the call to Make Palestinian Political Prisoners’ Day, 17 April 2012, A Day of International Action
8 May: Statement on the Palestinian political prisoners’ hunger strike
5 July Foreign Office reply to our letter re Mahmoud Sarsak of 11th June

Information on administrative detention and political prisoners generally, from Btselem and Addameer, follows below.

19th July Urgent action needed to save Palestinian hunger strikers, a joint statement byAddameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel

Administrative Detention (B’Tselem note)

Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial that is authorized by administrative order rather than by judicial decree. Under international law, it is allowed under certain circumstances. However, because of the serious injury to due-process rights inherent in this measure and the obvious danger of its abuse, international law has placed rigid restrictions on its application. According to international law, administrative detention can be used only in the most exceptional cases, as the last means available for preventing danger that cannot be thwarted by less harmful means.

Israel’s use of administrative detention blatantly violates these restrictions. It is carried out under the thick cover of privilege, which denies detainees the possibility of mounting a proper defense. Over the years, Israel has administratively detained thousands of Palestinian for prolonged periods of time, without prosecuting them, without informing them of the charges against them, and without allowing them or their attorneys to study the evidence, making a mockery of the protections specified in Israeli and international law to protect the right to liberty and due process, the right of defendants to state their case, and the presumption of innocence.

As of March 2012, Israel was holding 320 Palestinians in administrative detention (for detailed figures click here)

Further information from Addamer on political prisoners follows:

Addameer, Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association gives much detailed information on political prisoners generally. Here is its webpage on administrative detention as at 10 July 2012:

Administrative detention is a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. Although administrative detention is used almost exclusively to detain Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), which includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, Israeli citizens and foreign nationals can also be held as administrative detainees by Israel (over the years, only 9 Israeli settlers have been held in administrative detention). Israel uses three separate laws to hold individuals without trial:

  • Article 285 of Military Order 1651, which is part of the military legislation applying in the West Bank;
  • Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law (Unlawful Combatants Law), which has been used against residents of the Gaza Strip since 2005;
  • Emergency Powers (Detentions) Law, which applies to Israeli citizens.

Palestinians have been subjected to administrative detention since the beginning of the Israeli Occupation in 1967 and before that time, under the British Mandate. The frequency of the use of administrative detention has fluctuated throughout Israel’s occupation, and has been steadily rising since the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000.

On the eve of the second intifada, Israel held 12 Palestinians in administrative detention. Only two years later, in late 2002-early 2003, there were over one thousand Palestinians in administrative detention. Between 2005 and 2007, the average monthly number of Palestinian administrative detainees held by Israel remained stable at approximately 765. Since then, as the situation on the ground stabilized and violence tapered off, the number of administrative detaines has generally decreased every year. As of 1 June 2012, there were at least 303 Palestinians from the West Bank and East Jerusalem being detained in administrative detention, of which 22 were members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.


Although international human rights law permits some limited use of administrative detention in emergency situations, the authorities are required to follow basic rules for detention, including a fair hearing at which the detainee can challenge the reasons for his or her detention. Moreover, to use such detention, there must be a public emergency that threatens the life of the nation, and detention can only be ordered on an individual, case-by-case basis without discrimination of any kind. (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 9).

Administrative detention is the most extreme measure that international humanitarian law allows an occupying power to use against residents of occupied territory. As such, states are not allowed to use it in a sweeping manner. To the contrary, administrative detention may be used against protected persons in occupied territory only for “imperative reasons of security” (Fourth Geneva Convention, Art.78).

In practice, Israel routinely uses administrative detention in violation of the strict parameters established by international law. Tellingly, Israel has claimed to be under a continuous state of emergency sufficient to justify the use of administrative detention since its inception in 1948. In addition, administrative detention is frequently used – in direct contravention to international law – for collective and criminal punishment rather than for the prevention of future threat. For example, administrative detention orders are regularly issued against individuals suspected of committing an offense after an unsuccessful criminal investigation or a failure to obtain a confession in interrogation.

In practice, Israel’s administrative detention regime violates numerous other international standards as well. For example, administrative detainees from the West Bank are deported from the occupied territory and interned inside Israel, in direct violation of Fourth Geneva Convention prohibitions (Articles 49 and 76). Further, administrative detainees are often denied regular family visits in accordance with international law standards, and Israel regularly fails to separate administrative detainees from the regular prison population as required by law. Moreover, in the case of child detainees, Israel regularly fails to take into account the best interests of the child as required under international law.


In the occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli army is authorized to issue administrative detention orders against Palestinian civilians on the basis of article 285 of Military Order 1651. This article empowers military commanders to detain an individual for up to six-month renewable periods if they have “reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the area or public security require the detention”. No definition of “security of the area” or “public security” is given. On or just before the expiry date, the detention order is frequently renewed; there is no explicit limit to the maximum amount of time an individual may be administratively detained, leaving room for indefinite legal detention.

Administrative detention orders are issued either at the time of arrest or at some later date and are often based on “secret information” collected by the Israeli Security Agency (formerly known as the General Security Service). In the vast majority of administrative detention cases, neither the detainee nor his lawyer is ever informed of the reasons for the detention or given access to the “secret information”.

A Palestinian detainee subjected to an administrative detention order must be brought before a military court in a closed hearing within eight days of his or her arrest, where a single military judge can uphold, shorten or cancel the detention order. In most cases, however, administrative detention orders are confirmed for the same periods as those requested by the military commander. While the detainee can appeal the decision at the judicial review, in practice, the vast majority of appeals are rejected. By comparison, administrative detention under Israeli domestic law requires a detainee to be brought before a judge within 48 hours, and orders can be given only up to three month periods.
In practice, Palestinians can be detained for months, if not years, under administrative detention orders, without ever being informed about the reasons or length of their detention. Detainees are routinely informed of the extension of their detention on the day that the former order expires. Under the existing administrative detention procedures, Palestinians have no effective means by which to challenge their administrative detention.
In the Gaza Strip, Israel uses the Unlawful Combatants Law to hold Palestinians for an unlimited period of time, without effective judicial review. The law was approved by the Israeli Knesset in 2002 in order to enable the state to continue holding Lebanese “bargaining chip” detainees after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled the practice illegal. Although all Lebanese detainees were released in 2004, the law was not revoked. Instead, starting in 2005 after Israel’s unilateral “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip and the accompanying end of the application of Israeli military orders there, it began to be used to detain residents of the Strip.
The law defines an “unlawful combatant” as a “person who has participated either directly or indirectly in hostile acts against the State of Israel, or is a member of a force perpetrating hostile acts against the State of Israel,” and who is not entitled to prisoner of war status under international humanitarian law.
The Unlawful Combatants Law allows for the sweeping and swift detention without trial of large numbers of foreign citizens and Palestinians resident of the Gaza Strip. To date, the law has been used to detain 54 individuals, including 15 Lebanese nationals and 39 Gazans, most of whom were detained during Israel’s winter 2008-2009 military action against Gaza codenamed “Operation Cast Lead” and have since been released. As of April 2012, Israel was holding 1 Gazan under this law.
Detainees under the law may be held for 96 hours before the issuance of a permanent detention order, or up to seven days if the government declares the “existence of wide-scale hostilities”. Judicial review of an order in a closed hearing must take place within 14 days of its issuance; if it is approved, the detainee must be brought before a judge once every six months. If the court finds that his release will not harm state security, the judge shall cancel the order.

In practice, the Unlawful Combatants Law contains fewer protections for detainees than even the few that are granted under administrative detention orders in the West Bank. For example, judicial review is conducted less often; the legality of the detention does not require the existence of a state of emergency; and, the detention “is carried out pursuant to an order issued by the chief of staff or by an officer holding the rank of major general”. In addition, the law establishes two troubling presumptions that shift the burden of proof to the detainee: first, the release of an individual identified as an “unlawful combatant” will harm national security unless proven otherwise; second, the organization to which the detainee belongs carries out hostilities, if the Israeli Minister of Defense has made such a determination, unless proven otherwise. This practice patently violates the accused’s right to a presumption of innocence in any criminal proceeding, and results in a system of indefinite detention justified by mere speculation and stacked heavily against the detainee.

  • The government of Israel should release all administrative detainees;
  • In the meantime, administrative detainees must be granted their rights in accordance with international law;
  • The government of Israel should immediately cease using the Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law and take action to repeal it;
  • EU member states should raise cases of administrative detainees with the Israeli government under the EU-Israel political dialogue.
  • ______

September 10, 2012


Following a visit of the 3 hunger strikers today by an
Independent doctor from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), it is our belief that a swift and resolute intervention is needed if we wish to try and save their lives.

PHR Israel’s volunteer doctor visiting them today, had determined that the all hunger strikers must be immediately transferred to a public hospital for comprehensive medical query of their severe conditions. Imminent life danger hovering over the three hunger-striker detainees – Sammer Al-Bark on his 112 day, Hassan Safadi on his 82 day and Ayman Sharawni on his 72 days.

PHR-Israel reiterates their grave concern for the life and health of three hunger strikers.  The advanced physical damage recorded by the independent doctor in the visit today raises grave concern for maltreatment and neglect by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) doctors.

The independent doctor reports severe deterioration of their health condition, and advanced physical damage. the doctor reported that all three hunger strikers suffers from extreme weight loss, muscle weakness, significant decline in gross motor strength and loss of muscle tissue severe dizziness; Daily bleeding in oral cavity; Unable to carry out simple daily activities like showering and other tasks; extreme low blood pressure; slow pulse; blurred vision; suffered from several incidents of dizziness and fainting that caused falling.

Of special alert is the fact that the IPS medical staff was extremely hostile in its conduct with PHR Israel’s independent doctor, and did everything within its power to withhold medical information and intimidate the doctor. Also of deep concern is the fact that the hospital to which they were referred examined only those factors requested by the IPS and seems to overlooked complaints or other factors in the detainees’ condition – let alone order their hospitalization rather than returning them to the prison. This conduct, PHR Israel fears, puts their health and lives in further risk.

Al Bark and Safadi –  both administrative detainees – shall be immediately released, in accordance with the agreement according to which administrative detention orders shall not be extended.
Ayman Sharawni was released as part of the exchange deal that brought about the release of corporate Shalit. He was rearrested under and detained without charges or trial under a special military committee that has the authority to abolish a release and order a detention (military order number 11/186). PHR Israel believes that this is an administrative detention in a different guise and that Sharawni must be released.

PHR Israel asks that you shall do your utmost to bring about a life-saving resolution to the hunger strike.

For further details: Hadas Ziv 054-6623232


Hadas Ziv
Public Outreach
PHR Israel

June 29th, 2012, Six political prisoners of PA on protest hunger strike
If the principal aim of the PA is to be Israel’s ‘partner for peace’, speaking for all Palestinians, then it follows they will crush articulate or organised dissenting voices. Chief dissenter is Hamas, many of whose members were arrested in a 2010 crackdown by the PA’s security service.. Now six of those detained – whose release was ordered by the Palestinian High Court – are on hunger strike. Occupied Palestine, PCHR and background article.

June 18th, 2012, Mahmoud al-Sarsak starts to eat in exchange for early release
Mahmoud al-Sarsak’s lawyer has said the young footballer has agreed to start eating in exchange for release on 10 July 2012. He has been held without charge or trial for three years and been on hunger strike in protest for over 80 days. In the last few weeks, Eric Cantona and professional footballers had taken up his case and protested against Israel hosting a Uefa tournament next year. BBC and Ma’an news.

June 13th, 2012, ‘Israel can detain us in a cell, but under occupation it feels like prison anyway’
IRIN provides a usefully factual report on Israel’s prison system for Palestinians, and on the physical and political effects of the mass hunger strike. There are no political prisoners – only ‘security prisoners’. Mahmoud al-Sarsak is the only one detained as an ‘unlawful combatant’.

June 6th, 2012, Prisoners from Gaza still denied family visits; hunger strikes continue, a Btselem report
Last May, the Israeli Prison Service agreed to, amongst other thngs, allow the resumption of visits by families from Gaza to relatives imprisoned in Israel. B’Tselem’s attempts to unravel IPS thinking belong in a Kafka novel. Electronic Intifada on the situation today – where revenge and collective punishment are the terms used by those involved.

June 5th, 2012, Fight for life of Mahmoud al-Sarsak
Mahmoud al-Sarsak, a young Palestinian footballer was arrested on his way to a match from his home in Gaza 3 years ago. He was illegally moved to a prison in Israel where he has since been held as an ‘unlawful combatant’. He has been on a protest hunger strike since some date between 15th and 24th March and is now gravely ill. Physicians for Human Rights have been denied access to him.
May 18th, 2012, BBC slammed for blanking historic hunger strike

May 16th, 2012, After the ‘Great Palestinian Prison Hunger Strike’
The end of the hunger strike is only the beginning: of holding Israeli authorities to the conditions on which prisoners agreed to end the strike; the possible beginning of humane standards for prisoners in Israeli gaols; the start of family visits; the beginning of the end for administrative detention. Richard Falk, Stephen Lendman and Palestinian Centre for Human Rights greet the next stage with scepticism and expectation. Haaretz begins to write of ‘national liberation struggle’ and ‘political prisoners’.

May 14th, 2012,Hunger strike over, many demands met
Fear the prisoners on hunger strike would start dying, sparking a third intifada, and behind-the-scenes pressure from diplomats brought the Israeli Prison Service – with, presumably, the agreement of the government– to reach an agreement with the prisoners’ representatives. Solitary confinement and the ban on family visits will be ended. (Now the strike is over, it was mentioned on the BBC news.)

May 12th, 2012, Showing solidarity with hunger strikers
Supporters of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike have signed petitions, posted letters, sent emails, demonstrated; now they are being asked to fast for a day: on Thursday May 17th, a ‘global 24-hour hunger strike’; or to join in Fasting on Fridays.

May 9th, 2012, Act now for starving political prisoners
A JfJfP statement, a petition from Jewish Voice for Peace in the US and an account in Ha’aretz of what happens to the body during starvation.

May 7th, 2012, Denial and solidarity meet hunger strike prisoners
Imagine a blank space at the top of this post for coverage by western media of the mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners – see Richard Falk below. Yet only western intervention will affect the judicial regime. While students hold a sympathy hunger strike at the Oberlin liberal arts college, Ohio (1) an Israeli court rejects an appeal by 2 prisoners near death (2); Marwan Barghouti and Salam Fayyad state support from those they speak for (3 and 4).

May 7th, 2012, Critics of Palestinian violence silent on prisoners’ hunger strike
Despite the seriousness of the mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli gaols, most of the world is ignoring it. Richard Falk is virtually alone as a diplomat in making a public noise about it – highlighting its significance as a form of non-violent action. His angry blog, followed by a news report. Third, Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights on the breach of medical ethics as 2 men near death

May 1st, 2012, Mass prisoners’ hunger strike continues, Israel shrugs
Four of the 2000 Palestinian prisoners who began a hunger strike on 17 April are at risk of death, reports Amira Hass (2). State authorities reckon there is no risk to themselves if they die. Action by supporters is urged by prisoners’ association Samidoun and British activists (1 and 3)

April 26th, 2012, 2000 Palestinian prisoners now on hunger strike against administrative detention
UPDATE: report of maltreatment of detained children, 4th./ The mass prisoners’ hunger strike against administrative detention has now been joined by an estimated 2000 prisoners despite a range of punishments from denial of visits to solitary confinement. It began with 1200 on Prisoners’ Day, 17th April, Maureen Clare Murphy and Addameer report. Plus a letter from Ameer Makhoul to Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Bahraini human rights activist, on hunger strike for 78 days (26 April).

April 17th, 2012, April 17th – Palestinian political prisoners’ day
Inspired by the hunger strike of Khader Adnan, Palestinians and supporters have made Israeli treatment of political prisoners a paramount campaign. April 17th has been declared Palestinian Political Prisoners’ Day – an event supported by JfJfP. Posted here, some of the actions, supporters and fact sheets launched for this day.

April 1st, 2012, Hana Shalabi ends hunger strike, will be deported to Gaza
Last Thursday Hana Shalabi agreed to end her 43-day hunger strike in exchange for exile in Gaza. She is currently too weak to be moved

March 19th, 2012, Hana Shalabi continues resistance as health fails

Hana Shalabi has been on hunger strike since February 16th in Hasharon Prison. She can no longer stand. At a court hearing on Tuesday March 20th, the Israeli prosecutor will oppose a move to cancel her administrative detention order (PNN). 2nd, Richard Falk is moved by the courage of a young woman who is not in a leadership position but sets an example of non-violent protest. 3rd, the Euro-Med Human Rights Network issues statement against administrative detention. 4th, a link to a video of Hana Shalabi’s sister.

March 8th, 2012,  On International Women’s Day, seven women political prisoners at heart of protest
Addameer, the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group, has issued a call on International Women’s Day (March 8th) for the release of all Palestinian women being held in administrative detention. One of them is Hana Al-Shalabi, now on the 21st day of her hunger strike. Two reports from Electronic Intifada including the Addameer statement, a Ma’an report on IWD in Gaza and MEMO from Qalandia checkpoint. Plus first film in Arab world on sexual violence against women and girls

February 29th, 2012, After Adnan, another hunger strike against administrative detention

Released last October in the prisoner exchange, Hana Shalabi was rearrested in February and is again held in administrative detention. She began a hunger strike in protest on February 16th (1). Palestinians supported her in a sit-in protest in Ramallah on 28th February (2). Khader Adnan, whose hunger strike inspired this form of non-violent protest against administrative detention is recovering after surgery (3).

February 21st, 2012, Khader Adnan ends hunger strike as Israel agrees to release him on April 17
Facing massive Palestinian protests, and growing international pressure, Israel’s state prosecution service agreed today, 21st February, not to detain Khader Adnan after April 17th. In return he has agreed to end his hunger strike. How well he can be renourished after the damage done by starvation is not known. He has highlighted the issue of the use of administrative detention in Israel and there is a link to a petition launched by Amnesty International against administrative detention in the post. Also a Global Spin blog reporting the response of the PA to the issue.

February 16th, 2012, Khader Adnan: UN rapporteur condemns this ‘state barbarism’
Khader Adnan is on the 61st day of his hunger strike (16th Feb) and cannot survive much longer if the Israeli authorities persist in their refusal to charge him, indicate the evidence against him or try him. Their refusal to follow judicial procedure is the cause of his hunger strike. Richard Falk deplores the indifference to his, and other Palestinian prisoners’, plight.

February 6th, 2012, 8th week of hunger strike, Khader Adnan Mousa close to death
UPDATED: Israel should charge Khader Adnan Mousa and put him on trial or rfelease him. The Israeli military has held him in administrative detention since December 17. He is now gravely ill on the 52nd day (6 February) of a protest hunger strike. As well as Amnesty International and the Palestinian Prisoner Society, Physicians for Human RIghts, Addameer, International Solidarity Movement, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch are amongst the organisations pressing Israel to either release or charge him.

February 2nd, 2012, Life of man in administrative detention at risk from hunger strike
Amnesty (1) and Addameer (2), the prisoners’ rights and support association, are both now campaigning urgently for Khader Adnan, arrested on 17 December 2011 and on hunger strike since then. He is held under military administrative detention, which means without trial or prisoners’ rights. He is associated with Islamic Jihad, the assumed reason for his several arrests, but has not been charged with any crime.

October 11th, 2011, Support Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike
The Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike continues. Please consider signing the petition of support, disseminating information about the strike and sending messages to the the Israeli embassy, the International Committee of the Red Cross and to other human-rights organisations asking them to act swiftly to demand that all Palestinian political prisoners and detainees are freed from punitive isolation

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