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Ignoring Calls by Human Rights Experts, Medical Community, Israel OKs 'Legislative Foundation for Torture'

Israeli parliament approves bill allowing the force-feeding of prisoners

Palestinian women take part in a demonstration in a mock cage to support Palestinian detainees on hunger strike. (Photo: Joe Catron/flickr/cc)

The Israeli parliament on Thursday passed a law allowing for the force-feeding of prisoners. It has been criticized as providing "a legislative foundation for torture."

Medical organizations, including the Israeli Medical Association, have denounced force feedings as violating human rights and medical ethics.

The bill passed the body, known as the Knesset, 46-40. According to a Knesset statement released Thursday:

If the request [to the court for permission to force-feed a prisoner] is authorized, the prisoner can be fed against his will and a prison guard can use "reasonable" physical force to ensure the prisoner is fed. The treatment, the law states, must be administered in the presence of a doctor.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) stated last month:

The bill incorporates significant violations of human rights and medical ethics; it provides a legislative foundation for torture by ill-treatment, permitting and providing for the enforced feeding and treatment of hunger strikers; it makes ill use of medicine and of physicians for a political-security goal and it is in direct violation of the Patient’s Rights Act and of international declarations and treaties.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year noted the use of force-feeding at the Guantanamo prison to help make his case for swift passage of the bill.

Among the members of parliament speaking out against the legislation was Dov Khenin of the Joint Arab List, who said during debate ahead of the vote that it is "cruel, dangerous and unnecessary."

"No hunger-striking prisoner has ever died in the State of Israel, but 50 prisoners who were force-fed did die. This law kills, and it permits things that are prohibited according to international norms," he said.


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As Common Dreams previously reported:

Hunger strikes are a common tactic of Palestinian resistance against widespread detentions, which stem from Israeli policies of occupation and apartheid.

According to Palestinian human rights organization Addameer, in April 2015 there were 5,800 political prisoners in Israeli jails, including 414 people in administrative detention.

Earlier this week two United Nations human rights experts issued a statement urging Israeli authorities not to approve the practice, and noted that Palestinians would be most affected by the law.

"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, stated Tuesday.

Reacting to the bill's approval, PHR-Israel said it was a "shameful law," and urged the medical community to "refuse to serve as a medical fig leaf for torture."

The bill "pushes the medical community to severely violate medical ethics for political gains, as was done in other dark regimes in history.

"We are now faced with a horrendous law that turns medicine into a tool of policing, punishment and oppression. PHR-Israel will support anyone who will refuse to obey the law and will stand against any attempt to force-feed hunger strikers," the group stated.

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