PHR-Israel Exposes Laundry List of Medical Ethics Violations Committed by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) That Endangered the Lives of Hunger Striking Prisoners and Detainees – April 2013. Full Report
Ahead of Palestinian Prisoners’ Day (April 17th) – and in light of the prolonged hunger strike currently waged by Palestinian Prisoner Samer Issawi, as well as recent reports detailing the deaths of several Palestinian security prisoners – PHR-Israel releases an extensive report exposing a long list of medical ethics and human rights violations carried out by the IPS, specifically by prison medical practitioners, that endangered the lives of prisoners and detainees on hunger strike. According to PHR-Israel, the violations are a direct result of situating prison medical services under the auspices of the IPS, which operate largely out of security considerations.
The struggle of Palestinian prisoners made headlines last year when five administrative detainees waged prolonged hunger strikes in protest of their detention. Ahead of last year’s Palestinian Prisoners’ Day just one year ago, 1,600 additional Palestinians launched a mass hunger strike as a show of support and solidarity with those already on prolonged strike, and in protest of the conditions of their incarceration. The hunger strikes made the Israeli and international publics conscious and aware of the arbitrary policies that the State of Israel and the IPS pursue and implement vis-à-vis Palestinian prisoners.
At the time of drafting, Samer ‘Issawi, originally freed under the agreement that secured the release of Gilad Shalit, then arrested again, is still on hunger strike.
As the hunger strikes continued, over the course of 2012, PHR-Israel bore witness to medical ethics and human rights violations, including violations of the right to health and deviations from professional standards, carried out by the prisoners’ treating physicians. Violations even reached the point of placing the lives of prisoners and detainees in immediate danger.
Problems of medical conduct are prevalent not only with regard to the treatment of hunger striking prisoners; they involve other cases, too. Over the last year, several security prisoners have died in incarceration; the latest of which were Arafat Jaradat and Maysra abu Hamdiyyeh and before that Ben Zygier, cases which raised suspicions over inadequate conduct by IPS medical staff and their treating physicians. Moreover, PHR-Israel receives dozens of complaints a year from Israeli inmates detailing medical neglect and the overall failure of the IPS medical system to respond to their needs. Palestinian prisoners in need of medical treatment, and their families, worry that their fates might end up like their peers’ who lost their lives as a result of the poor and inadequate services rampant in the prison system.
Written by PHR-Israel staff Amani Dayif and Hadas Ziv, the release of this report aims to trigger a process that affords greater protections to prisoners and detainees, especially those on hunger strike. PHR-Israel’s report surveys the hunger strikes waged by over a dozen Palestinian prisoners over the course of 2012. It features an analysis of the conduct of Israel’s various health institutions and medical staff. By looking through the prism of binding professional codes of ethics, the authors examine the extent to which these bodies were able to stand up to the challenges that the hunger strikes generated.
The report suggests that the ways in which the IPS medical system dealt and handled the cases of hunger strikers over the past year, underlines the high extent to which the prison medical system is amenable to the prison system, which is in turn amenable and subordinate to Israel’s political echelons. Information gathered over the course of the year also raises concerns that on account of this subordination, the prison medical system in fact operates according to political and security considerations, rather than medical considerations, the former of which runs contrary to the interests of the hunger striking patient. Furthermore, they worsen situations of dual loyalty (in which physicians have responsibility to the patient on one hand, and to their employer on the other), a problem already rampant among medical practitioners employed by the IPS.