Abbas Urges UN to Intervene in Palestinian Hunger Strike Crisis

In formal letter to UN Security Council, Palestinian president calls to annul Israeli policy of administrative detention.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Abbas, right, jointed by Erekat, signs applications to UN agencies, in Ramallah, April 1, 2014.
Abbas, right, jointed by Erekat, signs applications to UN agencies, in Ramallah, April 1, 2014.Credit: AP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appealed on Tuesday to members of the UN Security Council (except Australia), calling on them to intervene in the crisis over the Palestinian administrative detainees who have been on a hunger strike for nearly two months.

The appeal came in the form of a formal letter in Abbas’ name, signed by chied Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, was also delivered to countries in the European Union, Brazil, South Africa and India. It relates the story of the hunger strike, which began on April 24 in protest against the administrative detention of these prisoners.

“The hunger strike being carried out by prisoners held in administrative detention shines a light on one of the most severe injustices of military rule in the occupied State of Palestine. Palestinian residents are routinely held in administrative detention for many months, sometimes even years, without being informed of the charges against them or when they will be released. Under international law, administrative detention is only allowed under very clear and exceptional circumstances. According to international law, administrative detention should be the last means to prevent a danger that cannot be thwarted by other and less harmful means.”

“Israel use of administrative detention clearly violates international law. Israel denies administrative detainees the right to see the evidence against them, the detention is renewable and has no upper limit, prisoners are not informed of their release date and they do not stand any trial. Administrative detainees are simply denied the right or the possibility of a proper defence. Israel uses this policy systematic manner and in many cases applies it against Palestinians on the basis of their political opinions. For example, six of the hunger strikers are members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, imprisoned by Israel without trial and for no other reason than their political leanings and sentiments.”

In his letter, Erekat strongly objects to proposed Israeli legislation allowing force-feeding of hunger strikers. He states that Prime Minister Netanyahu supports the bill and is trying to pass it in the Knesset.

“Israel has reneged on its previous agreements with representatives of the prisoners in which it agreed to apply administrative detention in exceptional circumstances as prescribed in international law. This included limited use of administrative detention. However, since the agreement was signed on May 2012, Israel has failed to meet its obligations and instead of limiting the use administrative detention, it has in fact increased it significantly.”

The Palestinians hold Israel responsible for the wellbeing of the striking prisoners: “Israel is responsible for the lives of all of them, and for the political ramifications of any worsening in their situation.”

“We call on you to call on Israel to annul the policy of administrative detention and to condition deepening your bilateral ties with Israel pending Israel’s fulfilment of all its obligations as an Occupying Power under international humanitarian law, including the fourth Geneva Convention, as per your obligation under international law.”

Leaders of the prisoners are expected to decide on Wednesday on whether to join the strike and to expand it beyond administrative detainees. The legal counsel in the Palestinian government’s Prisoner Affairs office, attorney Jawad Boulos, told Haaretz that prisoners are coming to the conclusion that the strike should be expanded, in face of a lack of any initiative on the part of the Prisoner Service or the Defense Ministry. Assemblies in support of the detainees were held in Israel and the West Bank, with calls for their immediate release. On Tuesday evening, dozens of demonstrators gathered in front of Poriya Hospital, in which eight of the hunger strikers are located. The demonstrators carried placards condemning the policy and calling for the release of detainees.

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