GENEVA (8 June 2012) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk expressed deep concern regarding the fate of two Palestinian prisoners, Mahmoud Sarsak and Akram Rikhawi, detained without charges by Israel, and called for their immediate release. Mr. Sarsak is on the 82nd day of his hunger strike and Mr. Rikhawi is on his 58th day.
“These individuals are protesting against their detention without charges and are suffering immensely for it,” said the independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. “There is no acceptable basis for continuing to hold these persons, and Israel will be responsible if any permanent harm results.”
“Mr. Sarsak has lost one third of his body weight and Mr. Rikhawi is suffering from aggravated diabetes and asthma,” Mr. Falk noted. “If Israeli officials cannot present evidence to support charges against these men, then they must be released immediately.”
“Israel must end the appalling and unjust treatment of Palestinian prisoners and the international community needs to raise its voice and take steps to end Israel’s flagrant misuse of administrative detention,” the rights expert underscored.
In his view, the series of hunger strikes that started last December “has called attention to Israel’s abusive reliance on administrative detention, but also to conditions that fail to meet legal standards of international humanitarian law for the more than 4,000 Palestinians imprisoned.”
Israel currently has approximately 300 Palestinians detained without charges. “I have requested information regarding each of these persons,” he said, “and I will follow up on each case and address this matter in my forthcoming report to the Human Rights Council,” due on 2 July 2012.
Earlier this year, during his latest mission* to the region, Mr. Falk assessed the Israeli practice of detaining Palestinians without charges. “The Government of Israel calls this ‘administrative detention,’ but it is more honestly termed detention without charges, or arbitrary detention,” the Special Rapporteur said.
Several experts on prison conditions consulted during his February 2012 mission raised concerns regarding physical, verbal and psychological abuse; lack of access to proper medical treatment; medical neglect; widespread use of solitary confinement for extended periods; overcrowding and decrepit cells; and the lack of family visits.
In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council designated Richard Falk (United States of America) as the fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights. Learn more, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/ps/mandate/index.htm
(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11846&LangID=E
OHCHR Country Page – Occupied Palestinian Territories: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx
OHCHR Country Page – Israel: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx
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