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Release or charge hunger-striking Palestinian detainees now – UN chief to Israel

Published time: June 07, 2014 09:27
Edited time: June 08, 2014 19:19
Palestinian men take part in a demonstration in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on June 6, 2014 in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails. (AFP Photo/ Musa Al-Shaer)

Palestinian men take part in a demonstration in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on June 6, 2014 in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails. (AFP Photo/ Musa Al-Shaer)

Over 290 Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons have been on a hunger strike since April protesting their indefinite detention. Now UN’s Ban-Ki moon demands Tel Aviv to either charge administrative inmates or release them “without delay.”

“The Secretary-General is concerned about reports regarding the deteriorating health of Palestinian administrative detainees who have been on hunger strike for over a month,” Ban’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said in a statement.

The UN Secretary-General “reiterates his long-standing position that administrative detainees should be charged or released without delay,” he added.

According to the spokesman, Ban has taken note of the recent concerns issued by different human rights bodies and “has responded, reiterating the United Nations’ well known positions.”

Meanwhile, UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has also expressed her concern over a legislative amendment before the Israeli Knesset to allow force-feeding of the inmates.

The legislation, if passed, “would permit force-feeding and medical treatment of prisoners on hunger strike against their will under certain conditions, in contravention of international standards,” Dujarric added.

On Thursday, members of a UN Special Committee which monitors human rights violations of the Palestinians on the occupied territories called upon Israeli authorities “to heed the demand of the hunger strikers to end the practice of arbitrary administrative detention of Palestinians,” a committee said in a statement.

“It is a desperate plea by these detainees to be afforded a very basic standard of due process: to know what they are accused of and to be able to defend themselves,” the committee said.

According to the UN body, the Israeli government has detained “a large number of Palestinians for reasons not explicitly indicated.”

“Initial administrative detention orders of six-month periods can be renewed an indefinite number of times without producing charges,” the committee said.

The first protests among the Palestinian detainees started April 24, when a group of about 100 prisoners launched a peaceful protest, the UN Special Committee said. The inmates were “inspired” by their months and years in detention in Israel without being charged with any crimes. Now the total number of hunger strikers has reached 290. At least 65 prisoners have been hospitalized as a result of the strike.

According to the UN committee, among the inmates there are currently 11 Palestinian legislators, including eight held under administrative detention.

Palestinian activists hold placards during a protest outside the Israeli run Ayalon prison in Ramle, near Tel Aviv, calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners (AFP Photo / Ahmad Gharabli)

“Given that there are more than 5,000 Palestinian detainees in Israeli custody, we strongly appeal to the Israeli authorities to allow all Palestinian detainees, especially women and children, to be periodically seen by Palestinian doctors in order to avoid losing more lives,” the Committee said.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday Israeli doctors said they wouldn’t begin force-feeding the detainees, a move that put them on a collision course with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government. Netanyahu reportedly asked the authorities to speed up the bill’s reading, saying that he is confident the force-feeding will eventually be carried out.

The Israeli PM is now citing controversial US policy of force-feeding of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, a move that prompted long hunger-strikes among the inmates. The Guantanamo policy has drawn criticism from the United Nations human rights office, which said it constitutes torture and is thus a violation of international law.