Call for immediate intervention as the bill to allow force-feeding of Palestinian hunger strikers is reintroduced in the Knesset
Following a cabinet decision yesterday, the bill to allow force-feeding was re-presented today to the Knesset General Assembly. The voting on approving the continuation of the bill's legislative process from the last Knesset is due two weeks from today. Afterwards, the bill will be discussed and prepared for 2nd and 3rd (final) readings at the Knesset Committee of Internal Affairs and Environment.
The proposed bill passed the first reading in the previous Knesset in 2014. It is the government's intention to pass it in a 2nd and 3rd (final) reading in a swift procedure, as it views it as a major tool â€“ if not the only one â€“ in handling the current and expected hunger strikes.
In response to the Israeli Medical Association announcement that doctors would not implement the law, Gilad Arden, Minister of Internal Security, stated that they would find doctors who would agree to force-feeding, and that "the aim of the hunger strikes is to threaten the Israeli State and bring about the release of terrorists. We will pass the law as soon as possible and will not allow this thingâ€¦security prisoners are interested in turning the hunger strikes into a new kind of suicide attack to threaten the state of Israel."
The bill (Proposed Amendment to the Prisons Act) is promoted by the Ministry of Public Security with the cooperation of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health and the Israel Prison Service (IPS). If passed, it will legalize and enable force-feeding and forced treatment of hunger striking prisoners. A decision concerning medical intervention in a hunger strike will be made by a district court. The court will weigh the prisonerâ€™s health, his/her position, and state security.
The bill incorporates significant violations of human rights and medical ethics; it provides a legislative foundation for torture by ill-treatment, permitting and providing for the enforced feeding and treatment of hunger strikers; it makes ill use of medicine and of physicians for a political-security goal and it is in direct violation of the Patientâ€™s Rights Act and of international declarations and treaties.
Israeli and international medical community united against the bill
Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR-IL), the Israeli Medical Association (IMA), the National Bioethics Institute, and the forum of the directors of public hospitals in Israel, have all voiced their objection to forced feeding as a practice that is completely and always prohibited.
Following PHR-Israel's appeal, along with 18 international health organizations, to the World Medical Association (WMA), the WMA published in June 2014 an urgent plea to the Prime Minister of Israel to reconsider the proposed law allowing forced feeding of detainees on hunger strike.
The two WMA leaders stated in their letter: "For the sake of all the people involved here â€“ prisoners, detainees as well as physicians and others involved in their management - their safety and the reputation of your country, we urge you to please reconsider this step. It has been criticized internationally. It will not help the problem you wish to solve."
Not only the Israeli government refuses to negotiate a life-saving, peaceful resolution with hunger striking prisoners and detainees, and reflect on its administrative detention policies and harsh detention conditions - it blatantly disrespects the independence and advice of its own medical community.
The Amendment is both unnecessary and unwise
In contrast to the Israeli Patient's Rights Act
The amendment is in contravention and circumvention of existing legislation mainly of the Patient's Rights Act, that anchors the duty to provide medical care in informed consent, even in the case of medical emergency. The Law also considers cases in which the patient objects to the treatment, and permits forced treatment under strict conditions, which respect the patientâ€™s wishes or the assumptions about such wishes, only if life threatened, allowing it if - among other conditions "there are reasonable grounds to suppose that, after receiving treatment, the patient will give his retroactive consent"
Violates medical ethics and international human rights principles
The amendment is in complete violation of international treaties and declarations including the World Medical Association's (WMA)'s 1975 Declaration of Tokyo,which prohibits the participation of physicians in torture and clearly states that hunger-striking prisoners will not be fed, nourished, or treated by force (the declaration was adopted by the IMA); the 2006 WMA Declaration of Malta on hunger strikers that explicitly prohibits force-feeding; the Istanbul Protocol and The United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).
Following PHR-Israel's appeal, together with other human rights organizations, to the UN Special Rapporteurs on health and torture in June 2014, both have urged the Israeli Government to refrain from force-feeding and other coercive measures, and defined it as cruel and inhumane.
To conclude, PHR-IL calls on you to denounce this proposed amendment, which violates a long tradition of principles of medical ethics, local law and international law. PHR-IL thus urges the international diplomatic community to call on the Israeli government to:
Prevent Israel from legislating force-feeding
Release all administrative detainees: as a policy, Israel is holding Palestinian administrative detainees, some for prolonged periods, without trial or charges. Some are released and rearrested multiple times.