Israel Sill Refusing to Hospitalize Long-term Hunger Strikers

Israel is still refusing to transfer Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla to hospital after 73 days on hunger strike, the Prisoners Society said Friday.

Diab, 27, and Halahla, 33, are being held in a prison clinic, Qaddura Fares told Ma’an, adding that Israeli authorities refused to allow the society’s lawyer to visit them on Thursday.

Israeli Prison Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told Ma’an on Friday that the detainees were being treated at a prison clinic but would be hospitalized "if it is necessary."

The International Committee for the Red Cross on Monday warned that Halahla, Diab and four other long-term hunger strikers were in "imminent danger of dying" and called on Israel to transfer them to hospital.

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel says prison clinics are not equipped to care for prisoners in the advanced stages of a hunger strike and has repeatedly called on Israel to hospitalize strikers.

"PHR-Israel is concerned that (Israeli Prison Service) doctors fail to report abuses of hunger strikers; that IPS doctors violate medical ethics, and that the health and lives of hunger striker are unnecessarily jeopardized when they are kept in a place that claims it can answer their medical needs, but in practice cannot and does not," the group said Wednesday in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister and Minister of Health Benjamin Netanyahu.

Prison doctors are employed by the Israeli Ministry of Public Security and their loyalty to their employer sometimes conflicts with the needs of their patients, PHR-I said.

The organization has documented several alleged breaches of medical ethics by prison doctors, including forcing treatment on shackled detainees.

In another incident, a prison doctor removed Halahla from his wheelchair and put him on the floor, and said he would be left there until he agreed to medical treatment, a PHR-I doctor reported.

The medical organization expressed grave concern that life-threatening conditions are not being addressed in prison clinics, where patients are kept in prison cells.

Unlocking the cells is a time-consuming procedure, prohibiting fast access in medical emergencies, and the clinics are ill-equipped and do not have heart monitors, PHR-I added.

The prison clinic cannot perform lab tests on site and so doctors do not have up-to-date information on patients’ conditions. "This information is critical to the patient’s care," the group said.

The clinic does not have emergency buzzers, and detainees must shout for help, it added.

"We emphasize that these are patients who are gradually losing physical function, such as standing, sitting, and other daily functions."

Israel tries to prevent independent doctors and lawyers from visiting the detainees, the organization noted.

Halahla and Diab are being held in administrative detention and have not been tried or charged with any offense. On Monday, Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected appeals to release them.

On Wednesday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on Israel to either charge or free Palestinian detainees immediately.

"(Ban) reiterates that those detained must be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees, or released without delay," a statement issued through his spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

(Ma’an)

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