In an exceptional move, Professor Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Mr. Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur on Health asked the Knesset not to enact the force-feeding bill, and not to force Palestinian detainees on hunger-strike to receive any medical treatment against their will.
In his statement, Prof. Mendez emphasized that, “Even if it is intended for the benefit of the detainees, feeding induced by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints are tantamount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture wrote further to the Knesset on 25 June 2014: “It is not acceptable to force-feed or use threats of force-feeding or other physical or psychological coercion against individuals who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike to protest against their detention without charge and conditions of detention and treatment.”
“Healthcare personnel may not apply undue pressure on individuals who have decided to go on hunger strike,” the Special Rapporteur on the right to health said. “Prisoners’ rights to control their health, body, and be free from interference such as non-consensual medical treatment are fundamental elements of the right to health that must be respected and protected,” Mr. Grover added.
This statement came after the Knesset approved the first revision of the force-feeding bill, which will come before the Knesset for a vote on Monday 30 June 2014. The potential enactment of the force-feeding bill came in response to a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners and detainees, who were calling on the Israeli government to cancel its administrative detention policy, and to stop putting individuals in prison without trial or indictment. The hunger strike lasted for over 60 days and ended yesterday 25 June 2014.
The UN Special Rapporteurs issued their after a number of human rights organizations including Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I), Addameer, Adalah and Al Mezan, wrote a detailed urgent action letter to them asking for their support and intervention against the proposed force-feeding bill. The human rights organizations argued that the bill violates prisoner’s rights, including their right to dignity and to hunger strike as their last resort to protest their administrative detention.
For the full statement of the UN Special Rapporteurs, click here.