Israel has been urged to either release or charge five Palestinian prisoners currently on hunger strike in Israeli prisons. Grave concerns have been expressed for the lives of the prisoners by UN independent rights experts, who on Thursday, called on the Israeli Government to completely end the “unlawful practice “ of administrative detention. 

In a statement, the experts said that Israel continues to detain more than 500 Palestinians – including six children – “without charges, without trials, without convictions”.

‘Classified secret information’

They are being held on the basis of “classified secret information” that the detainees cannot access or challenge, and they do not know “when, or if, they are going to be released”, according to the Human Rights Council-appointed experts.

According to them, the five hunger strikers, all men in their twenties and thirties, have been refusing food for between 58 and 99 days to protest being held in administrative detention for months or even years at a time. 

The rights experts highlighted the cases of two of the men, Kayed Al-Fasous and Miqdad Al-Qawasameh, who are said to be in imminent danger of death. Mr. Al-Fasous who was reportedly held in harsh conditions in solitary confinement, and is now in Barzelai hospital.

Mr. Al Qawasameh was transferred to Kaplan Hospital after his health deteriorated.

He has been in intensive care there since 19 October. On 7 October and 14 October, the Israeli High Court of Justice suspended their administrative detention orders.

However, the rights experts pointed out that they decided to continue with their strike despite their very frail condition, because the suspension does not mean their release.

Two other men, Alaa Al-Araj, and Hisham Ismail Abu Hawash, were transferred on 19 October to Israeli hospitals after their health detoriated. The fifth, Mr. Shadi Abu Aka is currently in a prison clinic.

Harsh detention conditions

The experts noted that Israel has regularly violated its legal duty under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

This states that an occupying power cannot transfer prisoners from occupied territory, to detention centres in its territory.

UN calls for Israel to comply with its obligation, have come to no avail, the experts said.  “In international law, administrative detention is permitted only in exceptional circumstances, and only for short periods of time. Israel’s practices exceed all of the international legal boundaries.”

The independent experts also called upon Israel to end its harsh detention conditions of Palestinian prisoners: “the imposition of solitary confinement on detainees already weakened by months of hunger strike, must stop immediately” they said.

Special Rapporteurs and other independent rights experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. Their positions are honorary, they are not UN staff nor are they paid for their work.

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