Israel's force-feeding bill 'a violation of human rights' says Christian Aid partner

AP Photo/Bernat Armangue

A Christian Aid partner in Israel has condemned a proposed law that would see Palestinian hunger-strikers force-fed.

189 Palestinians are currently being held without charge or trial in Israel's prison network, 120 of whom have refused to eat since April 24 as an act of protest. They have been detained as a result of being suspected 'security threats'; among them are doctors, lawyers and professors, and many have now been transferred to hospitals due to dramatic weight loss and resulting ill health.

Though force-feeding, regarded as a form of torture, is currently forbidden by the Israel Medical Association's code of ethics, a new law has already passed through the first stage of Israeli Parliament that would see prison medics released to undertake the process.

Some doctors from the Israeli Prisons Service and representatives from other agencies including the Red cross and the Health Ministry have openly opposed this measure, but the government is keen to implement it as soon as possible – even as early as next week, should Parliament allow.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR-Israel), a Christian Aid partner, has now condemned the proposal; branding it a violation of fundamental human rights and a "sanction" of torture for the sake of political gain.

"The proposed bill incorporates significant violations of human rights and medical ethics by providing a legislative foundation for torture by enforced feeding. It makes ill use of medicine and of physicians in order to achieve a political aim," says PHR-Israel's Hadas Ziv in a statement.

"We urge the international diplomatic and medical community to call on the Israeli government to negotiate a life-saving and peaceful resolution with the hunger strikers, release all Palestinian administrative detainees and support Israel's medical community in its objection to the proposed Bill that will allow forced feeding and sanction torture."

Ziv adds: "This obstinacy is extremely dangerous, manifesting the Israeli government's inability not only to negotiate a life-saving peaceful resolution with the hunger striking prisoners and detainees, but even to hold a proper respectful discussion with its own medical community.

"Israel's government sends a dismal message to its citizens: all ethics, professional standards and alternative discourse are silenced in the face of the official policy of oppression – if not by will then by law."

The Israel Medical Association this week sent a letter to hospitals currently treating hunger-strikers, underlining that a ban on force-feeding is still in place. Chairman Dr Leonid Edelman told Israeli news source Haaretz that even if the government does remove the ban on force-feeding, doctors who engage in it could face international prosecution.

"Doctors who do that are liable to be denounced by the global medical community, and it will be hard to defend them if they are prosecuted," he warned.

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