Israel's Justice Ministry Pushing Bill to Force-feed Hunger-striking Palestinian Prisoners

Israeli court will be asked to decide if doctors believe a hunger-striking prisoner is endangering his own life.

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Following the high number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees going on hunger strike in an attempt to apply pressure for their release, Israel's Justice Ministry is formulating a draft bill that would make it possible to force-feed hunger-striking prisoners, subject to court approval.

According to the proposed guideline, a request to the court would follow on from a medical opinion determining that a hunger-striking prisoner's life is in danger if he continues his action. The prisoner will be represented by an attorney during the legal proceeding and have the right to have his viewpoint heard.

In the past year, a number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees have gone on prolonged hunger strikes. Israel's ministries turned to Deputy Attorney General Raz Nezri, who conducted a series of discussions on the issue with representatives of the defense and health establishments.

During the discussions there was a comparison with other countries, which showed that some Western countries permit force-feeding. A proposal allowing an administrator in the Israel Prison Service to approve force-feeding in the case of danger to a prisoner's life was declared legally invalid.

In an attempt to find a proportionate arrangement, it was decided that if a medical opinion determines continuing the hunger strike presents a real danger to the prisoner's health, the issue will be brought to the court, which will decide whether to force-feed him.

A court will then hear the prisoner, and he will be legally entitled to representation. The Justice Ministry believes that, in the case of security prisoners and detainees, it will not be feasible to wait until there is a danger to life and accept the possibility that they won't be able to save the prisoner.

The draft bill will soon be brought before the attorney general, justice minister and members of the cabinet for further consideration.

Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi's case reached the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court in 2012.Credit: Oren Nachshon
A Palestinian demonstrator shouts slogans holding a placard featuring Samer Issawi during a protest outside Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque in April. Credit: AFP

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