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UN experts urge Israel to halt legalization of force-feeding of hunger-strikers in detention

GENEVA (28 July 2015) – Two United Nations human rights experts today reiterated their call on the Israeli authorities to stop the process of legalizing force-feeding and medical treatment of prisoners and detainees on hunger strike against their will.

Their call comes after the current Knesset decided to continue the legislative process of a Bill to amend the Prisons Act (preventing damages due to hunger strikes) initiated by the previous legislature.

The independent experts warned that the Bill is expected to primarily affect Palestinians held by Israel, including those in administrative detention.

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, underlined that “feeding induced by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints of individuals, who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike to protest against their detention, are, even if intended for their benefit, tantamount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

As stressed in past expert findings, the conscious decision of the person and his or her informed and voluntary refusal of medical measures are crucial to fulfil, respect and protect human rights.

“Under no circumstance will force-feeding of prisoners and detainees on hunger strike comply with human rights standards,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Pûras, said. “Informed consent is an integral part in the realization of the right to health.”

The international experts have engaged with the Israeli authorities on different occasions regarding the issue of force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners and detainees. “The way to end the hunger strikes is not to force feed hunger-strikers but to address the underlying human rights violations against which they are protesting, namely, the practice of administrative detention”, they said.

“We reiterate our call on the Government of Israel to refrain from force-feeding and other coercive measures and look for alternative solutions to extreme situations resulting from hunger strikes, including good faith dialogue,” they said. “We stand ready to provide the necessary guidance and assistance to the authorities on these matters.”

The independent experts call has been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Makarim Wibisono.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to:

Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx
Right to health: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Health/Pages/SRRightHealthIndex.aspx
Human rights in the OPTs: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/PS/Pages/SRPalestine.aspx

OHCHR Country Pages:
Occupied Palestinian Territories: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx
Israel: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx

For and additional information and media requests, please contact Dolores Infante-Cañibano (+ 41 22 917 9768 / dinfante@ohchr.org) or write to srhealth@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en