Palestinian Prisoner Ghadanfar Abu Atwan On Hunger Strike

Ghadanfar Abu Atwan (28), a Palestinian prisoner, has been on a hunger strike for the past 61 days to protest his administrative detention in Israeli prison. A resident of Dura, near al-Khalil, Abu Atwan began his open-ended strike on May 5 and had since survived on water. Adding to his ongoing hunger strike, the prisoner declared a water strike on July 4 through a handwritten letter. 

The health of the detainee has deteriorated significantly. The last medical report issued by doctors at Israeli Kaplan Medical Center stated him to be at serious risk of sudden death, paralysis, and chronic health problems.

The Palestinian prisoner was arrested by Israeli occupation forces in October 2020 and was ordered six months in administrative detention, which was later renewed for a period of another six months. The renewal of his administrative detention without charge or trial led Atwan to initiate his open-ended hunger strike. 

After the announcement of his strike, Abu Atwan was transferred to an isolation cell for two weeks in Ramon prison and was later moved to Ohli Kedar prison. He was subjected to serious physical and psychological torture where he was prisoned in unsanitary and insects infested cells. On his transfer to Ramle prison cell, he was assaulted, beaten, and sprayed with an unidentified substance. According to his family, Atwan who is currently in an Israeli hospital has been placed in a ward with terminally ill patients. They believe this to be part of the psychological torture inflicted on him by the Israeli forces. 

Ghadanfar has been arrested and imprisoned by the Israeli forces four times in a period of nine years, with his first arrest at the age of 19 years. Three of his four arrests were administrative detention. 

Administrative detention allows the Israeli forces to imprison individuals without criminal charge or trial, and an indefinite renewal of their sentence. The policy also allows the authority to imprison individuals without revealing the basis of the arrest to the detainee or their lawyer. According to a report by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), an increase in the use of administrative detention has been observed since the second intifada in September 2000. 

Though international law permits limited use of administrative detention in emergency situations, the authorities in such cases are expected to follow basic rules of detention and the detainees are required to be given a fair hearing. Article 9(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes the right of an individual who is arrested to “be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.” Moreover, Article 9 (1) of the same convention, states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention” and also that “No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.”

Under administrative detention, Israel has detained thousands of Palestinians for prolonged periods without disclosing the charge against them and without trial. Detainees protesting by the act of hunger strike are subjected to regular transfers, beatings, harassment, and threats against their families. Israeli authorities practicing these acts violate Articles 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  

The UN Human Rights Council regarded Israel’s practice of administrative detention as an inhumane act as “the uncertainty that such measures imply for the detainee in the absence of any charges, known evidence or trial, as well as of any foreseeable detention period, may amount to ill-treatment”.

Ghadanfar Abu Atwan’s petition for scrapping his administrative detention was rejected by the Israeli Supreme Court on June 10. Atwan who is on an open-ended hunger strike has also refused any medical examination and treatment. 

Ghadanfar demands to be released from administrative detention and a transfer to a Palestinian hospital where he can receive urgent medical treatment. 

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