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Israel: Petition Urges Doctor Access To Prisoners


Petition against the IPS in regards to medical examinations of prisoners, allowing independent doctors to enter, and more

“Indeed, the detention requires, by its very definition, the negation of freedom, but it cannot justify, by its very definition, harming human dignity. It is possible to apply a detention that observes the human dignity of the prisoner. The walls of the prison are not supposed to separate the prison from his humanity…”

(Justice Barak, High Court Petition 540/84)

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, together with Adalah, filed today an urgent petition to the Israeli High Court, against the Israeli Prison Services (IPS) Commissioner and the Minister of Interior Security, Tsahi Hanegbi, in regards to the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike. In the petition the organizations demand that:

1) The prisoners be allowed to be examined by a doctor on a daily basis

2) Independent doctor be allowed to examine the prisoners

3) The IPS return to the prisoners their religious books, family pictures and letters and basic hygiene products, which were taken away at the start of the strike.

4) The IPS end the use of improper means to end the hunger strike.

The petitioners say that the IPS is not acting in accordance with the minimal medical standards to ensure the health of the striking prisoners, by not allowing the prisoners to be examined daily by the prison doctor, even though two weeks have passed since the start of the strike, and the prisoners’ condition continues to deteriorate daily.

Similarly, in spite of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel’s letter from 19 August, in which the organization offered to supply independent doctors to work in cooperation with the IPS (see: www.phr.org.il ), the latter does not allow independent doctors to enter and has not responded to the association. International medical organizations have emphasized the importance of the presence of independent doctors and the relationship between the prisoner on hunger strike and a doctor who is not from the prison system, particularly because of the sever problem of dual loyalties which prevents the building of a relationship based on trust, and does not allow for the prisoner to trust the doctor’s recommendations and opinion as to his medical status.

Attached to the petition is the professional medical opinion of Dr. Meir Liron, a member of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel’s board. In the opinion it is written, inter alia, that doctors who are treating prisoners on hunger strike must follow up on each case individually to evaluate the medical status of each person, and to offer medical aid whenever needed. He also states the need for a relationship based on trust between the doctor and patient, and thus the need for independent doctors. These and other issues mentioned in the opinion were raised by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel in a letter to the Health Minister and Minister Hanegbi sent on 22 August.

In the petition the organizations protest against the means used by the IPS to break the strike, which includes: burning of fatty meat (“aroma-barbeques”, as the spokesperson for the IPS said in Maariv newspaper) close to the striking prisoners’ cells, and the dissemination of misleading medical information to the prisoners in an attempt to scare them (see press release from 24 August).

The legal claims made can be found in the petition. The petitioners speak of the basic rights of the prisoner to life and bodily integrity and base their claims on previous high court rulings. Also, based on Israeli and International Law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and based on conventions and declarations of organizations such as the World Medical Association (WMA), the petitioners stress the prisoners’ right to proper medical care, and show where the IPS and the minister do not fulfill their obligations.

The prisoners have the right to life, bodily integrity and respect even inside of the prisons and even when they are on hunger strike.


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