Palestinian prisoners just launched a mass hunger strike

Marwan Barghouti file
Marwan Barghouti file
Author

18 April, 2017

An activist says more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners have launched an open-ended hunger strike to demand better conditions in Israeli prisons, including more contact with relatives, and an end to Israel's practice of detentions without trial.

The strike has been called for by prominent Palestinian prisoner and leader Marwan Barghouti, who is now serving a life sentence over his role in the second Palestinian intifada - or uprising. Barghouti is serving multiple life sentences for murder for his role in the deadly uprising of the second Palestinian intifada in the early 2000s.

The strike was scheduled to coincide with Palestinian "Prisoners Day," an annual event held in solidarity with the more than 6,000 Palestinian security prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails.

The Palestinian observer mission to the United Nations on Monday called for Israel to release thousands of Palestinians it said were "illegally and inhumanely" imprisoned and detained.

In 2012, approximately 1,500 Palestinian prisoners launched a similar hunger strike for close to a month before managing to obtain their rights. All Palestinian political prisoners - regardless of their alleged political affiliations or charges - are entitled to fair trial guarantees under worldwide humanitarian law and global human rights laws.

"Even though it is one of the most risky and hard decisions, they [inmates] are only making this choice because conditions [inside the prisons] have reached a new low", Amina al-Taweel, spokesperson for the Hebron-based Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies, told Al Jazeera.

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"Prisoners who decide to strike will face serious consequences", the Prison Service said in a statement, adding that "strikes and protests are illegal activities and will face unwavering penalisation". Ahmed, who said he'd been arrested seven times in total, has spent a cumulative five and a half years in an Israeli prison-but has only had one family visit in that time. He is a popular figure, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency. A 2016 report by Israeli human rights organisations HaMoked and B'Tselem described the typical treatment of Palestinian prisoners as "degrading", "inhuman" and "tantamount to torture".

Barghouti explained the reasons for the collective strike in an op-ed in The New York Times.

"Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance", he wrote.

The prisoners also demand periodic medical checkups and to increase the number of visits by the International Red Cross.

Channel 2 said Israel was determined not to give in to any of the prisoners demands.

According to Shakir, a mass hunger strike is an attempt by Palestinian prisoners to shed light on such practices that raise serious questions about Israel's policies under worldwide law.


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