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Israel force feeding hunger striking prisoners a violation of human rights and medical ethics

12 June 2014 - Efforts to force feed more than 100 Palestinian detainees on hunger strike are a violation of human rights and should be condemned, says Christian Aid’s partner Physicians for Human Rights (PHR Israel)

Israel’s proposed new law would require medics to force-feed up to 120 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike for more than 49 days in protest at Israel’s policy of Administrative Detention (indefinite internment without charge or fair trial).

The Forced Feeding Bill, introduced by the Israeli cabinet, has already passed its first reading in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and may become law as early as next week.

PHR-Israel’s Hadas Ziv said: ‘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.

‘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.’

Forced feeding is classified as torture by the World Medical Association's Declaration of Malta and has been condemned by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other UN agencies.

Although some doctors from the Israeli Prisons Service (IPS), military doctors and the Israeli Medical Association oppose the proposed law, the government remains resolute that the bill will be passed and doctors found willing to comply with it.

Hadas Ziv added: ‘Taking into consideration that both the IPS and military doctors are not members of the Israeli Medical Association, and are in a more precarious position, PHR Israel believes that utmost efforts should be made to protect them from being pressured by the authorities. Therefore, it is of crucial importance first to prevent the bill from passing, and – in the event that it does – to support and encourage all doctors to refuse it.

‘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.’

If you would like further information please contact Sorley McCaughey, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Christian Aid Ireland on (353) 087 062 0062 or smccaughey@christian-aid.org, or Florence Mutesasira, Communications & Media Officer on (353) 086 160 9405 or fmutesasira@christian-aid.org.

Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change www.christianaid.org.uk/images/partnership-for-change-summary.pdf explains how we set about this task.

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