March 16, 2012
Ramallah-Jaffa, 13 March 2012− A Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) doctor visited Ms. Hana Shalabi for the second time yesterday, 12 March 2012, expressing concern about her current condition.
Ms. Hana Shalabi, 30 years old and resident of Burqin village near Jenin, was re-arrested on 16 February 2012 and is being held in Hasharon Prison. She has been on hunger strike for almost four weeks, in protest of her violent arrest, the harmful and degrading ill-treatment she suffered following her arrest and of her administrative detention.
Ms. Hana Shalabi continues to refuse any medical examinations by Israeli Prison Service (IPS) doctors and has asked to be examined only by an independent doctor from PHR-Israel. Yesterday’s visit by a PHR-Israel doctor and the previous visit on 8 March were only made possible following the 7 March Israeli District Court ruling in a case brought by PHR-Israel that the IPS should allow a PHR-Israel doctor to examine Ms. Shalabi.
The doctor’s first examination of Ms. Shalabi on 8 March revealed that she is undergoing muscle atrophy and wasting, which occurs after the body has used up the fat reserves at its disposal as an alternative source of energy. This process may also affect the heart muscle. Ms. Shalabi feels weak and suffers from dizziness and periodic losses of consciousness. The doctor expressed concern regarding the physical damage that may follow.
The doctor’s second examination on 12 March indicated an additional deterioration in Ms. Shalabi’s condition, shown mainly in advanced muscle atrophy and wasting, additional weight loss, a significant reduction in blood sugar, severe dizziness and severe muscle pain, especially in her chest and back.
Following her visit, the doctor said that although Ms. Shalabi has begun to receive salts (in liquid form only), she refuses to receive any further treatment, indicating her determination to continue her hunger strike until her release. The doctor emphasized: “One cannot predict the body’s response to long-term fasting. Many scenarios are possible. Among the dangers are acute heart failure, liver failure, muscle breakdown accompanied by multisystem failure, and acute life-endangering infection due to a weakened immune system.”
It should be noted that during the visit yesterday, the doctor took blood samples to test various body system functions, and these were given to the IPS to transfer to a laboratory. The upcoming results will give a more comprehensive indication of Ms. Shalabi’s current condition.
The IPS Ethics Committee should have held a meeting today to discuss the possibility of force-feeding a detainee on hunger strike. We are uncertain about whether this meeting took place. PHR-Israel and Addameer note that the World Medical Association considers the force-feeding of hunger strikers a form of inhuman and degrading treatment, as it appears in the International Convention Against Torture. The Israeli Medical Association likewise considers force-feeding a hunger striker to be a form of torture, and the participation of physicians in this action is prohibited in the Tokyo Declaration of 1975 and the Malta Declaration, the latter of which requires physicians not only to respect the will of the hunger striker but to protect the individual from force-feeding to the best of their abilities.
PHR-Israel and Addameer are highly concerned both about administrative detainee Hana Shalabi’s health and about physicians’ consideration of force-feeding despite international conventions that prohibit it.
We call on the local and international community to take immediate action and intervene for Hana Shalabi’s release and to end Israel’s use of administrative detention.
On 23 February 2012 Ms. Hana Shalabi was given an administrative detention order for six months. On 29 February there was a discussion regarding her detention in Ofer military court. On 4 March the military court decided to reduce the detention period from six to four months, but without promising not to extend or renew it. As a result, Ms. Hana Shalabi announced she would continue to hunger strike until her release. On 7 March, an appeal hearing regarding the court’s decision was held at Ofer, and the military judge ordered the parties to try and reach a compromise by Sunday 11 March, but an agreement has not yet been reached.
Administrative detainees’ protests are growing. Two additional administrative detainees, Bilal Diab and Thair Halahleh declared hunger strikes on 1 March, which they claim will continue until their release from administrative detention. On 3 March, two other administrative detainees declared hunger strikes until their release. Since the beginning of March, a number of administrative detainees have refused to acknowledge the military court and refused to participate in legal discussions of their cases. Due to Israel’s use of administrative detention, and the unwillingness of the military court to interfere in this practice, a hunger strike serves as a non-violent and sole tool available to administrative detainees to protest and fight for their basic human rights.
Approximately 310 Palestinians are currently held in administrative detention in Israeli prisons. Administrative detention allows Israel to hold detainees for indefinitely renewable six-month periods. The arrest is granted on the basis of “secret information” and without a public indictment. Therefore, administrative detainees and their lawyers cannot defend against these allegations in court.