How would you feel if you were taken away from your family and deprived of your right to freedom without a valid trial? How would you feel if the only way to pursue justice was to sacrifice your life and go on a hunger strike? If you want to know the answer to these questions ask Palestinian detainee Samer Issawi, who has been hunger striking since his arrest at a Jerusalem checkpoint in July 2012.
There have been countless other Palestinian hunger strikers Akram Rikhawi, Jafar Azzidine, Tariq Qa’adan, Ayman Sharawneh and other prisoners who are protesting against their incarceration by refusing food. Refusing to eat has been their only means of highlighting their situation to the attention of the media and frustratingly the mainstream media fails to give them the coverage that they deserve.
ALSO READ The surfers of Gaza
Despite Issawi’s deteriorating health and countless calls from human rights organisations and activists in Palestine, the Israeli government continue to detain Issawi under the administrative detention practice. This unlawful practice, which allows Israel to detain Palestinian civilians for an indefinite time period and is often renewed every six months, constitutes a violation of Palestinian’s human rights.
In addition, administrative detention violates international human rights conventions and does not comply with civilised practices for the treatment of civilians. It had been reported that many Palestinian prisoners who have been detained by the Israeli government under administrative detention have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment, kept in isolation, denied family visits, and subjected to medical negligence.
With this in mind, one has to wonder why the practice is still being allowed to proceed under Israeli law. One reason is that many people around the world are unaware about administrative detention and the media has not highlighted this issue enough, which may be due to the growing solidarity that is being shown for the Palestinian hunger strikers and the condemnation of the Israeli government.
Many Palestinians who have been held under Israeli administrative detention have never had their basic right to a trial. Amnesty International have documented this practice in detail, and called for an end to these inhumane practices but there calls, along with many other human rights activists remain unheard.
Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa has urged Israel to end administrative detention and said in a statement that, “For decades, Amnesty International has urged Israel to end the practice of administrative detention and to release detainees or charge them with an internationally recognizable criminal offence and try them according to international standards.”
Harrison further stated that “Israel has used its system of administrative detention – intended as an exceptional measure against people posing an extreme and imminent danger to security – to trample on the human rights of detainees for decades. It is a relic that should be put out to pasture.”
There are many obstacles that we need to overcome in order to expose the intolerances of governments and the many accounts of human rights violations that remain in the world today. Powerful states continually manipulate the law and conceal their crimes from international criticism for their own political advantage, which makes it increasingly difficult for people to be brought to justice.
There needs to be more awareness of this issue in order to put pressure on the Israeli government to end administrative detention. Ensuring accountability and highlighting the need for intervention is important because those who have suffered harm have a right to truth and justice. The Israeli government need to be held accountable so that it will provide a level of deterrence and can help to make better policies and laws.
Are we going to wait till the inevitable happens and let innocent Palestinian civilians lose their lives fighting for justice, or are we going to raise this issue and provide a platform for their voices to be heard and pave the way forward to end illegal practices that violate human rights?
EDITOR’S PICK Visualising Palestine: decolonising the mind