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Mahmoud Sarsak and Akram Rikhawi still on hunger strike as Israelís violations continue

Ramallah, 24 May 2012 – Israel has already violated the terms of the agreement addressing the demands of approximately 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners just over one week since they ended their historic mass hunger strike. Two prisoners remain on hunger strike and are in increasingly critical conditions, without access to independent medical care. Addameer lawyer Mona Neddaf visited five prisoners in Ramleh prison medical center yesterday, including the two current hunger strikers.
 
25-year-old Mahmoud Sarsak is on his 67th consecutive day of hunger strike today, in protest of being held without charge or trial under Israel’s Unlawful Combatants Law, which provides even fewer legal protections than Palestinians held in administrative detention. Despite claims that he would be released in July, Israeli authorities have yet to provide Mahmoud with an actual release date. During the visit with Ms. Neddaf, Mahmoud’s health was in such grave condition that he could only speak with her for a matter of moments.
 
Akram Rikhawi remains on hunger strike as well, currently on his 43rd day. Akram has been in Ramleh prison medical center since his arrest in 2004, as he suffers from ailments such as asthma, diabetes and osteoporosis. Due to his pre-existing conditions, Akram’s hunger strike has been even harder on his body, and he is now in very fragile condition.
 
Ms. Neddaf also visited Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, who ended their 77-day hunger strikes on 14 May. According to Ms. Neddaf, Bilal is experiencing pain in his stomach and head and his body rejects most nourishment except for soup and milk. The prison doctor told him that his recovery period will most likely continue for the next two years. In spite of the agreement to ease restrictions on family visits, Bilal’s mother was denied permission to visit him on the basis of vague “security” reasons two days ago. Thaer is feeling sharp pains in his stomach, pancreas and back. On 20 May, he was transferred to Ofer for interrogation and then brought back to Ramleh prison medical center. Thaer and Bilal are scheduled to be released upon the expiration of their current administrative detention orders, on 5 June and 11 August, respectively. Both noted that they will immediately resume their hunger strikes if the agreement for their release is broken.
 
Mohammad Taj broke his 60-day hunger strike for one day when he was told that his demand to be treated as a prisoner of war would be met, and re-launched it on 15 May when the Israeli Prison Service did not adhere to the verbal agreement. He since ended his hunger strike on 21 May and reported to Ms. Neddaf the details of the ill-treatment he was subjected to after re-launching his hunger strike. According to his affidavit, Mohammad was transferred from Ramleh to Al-Jalameh interrogation center on 15 May. He was severely beaten and his clothes were forcibly stripped from his body. Prison guards also attempted to force milk down his throat.
 
In addition to these individual and serious violations, Addameer has already documented cases in which Israel has blatantly ignored the signed agreement as it pertains to the practice of administrative detention. Though the agreement stated that the use of administrative detention would be restricted, multiple extensions of orders for current administrative detainees have been issued this week. Newly arrested persons have also received administrative detention orders.
 
Addameer demands accountability for all of Israel’s human rights violations related to the hunger strikes, which still continue today. It is imperative for Mahmoud Sarsak and Akram Rikhawi to receive immediate visits from independent doctors and be transferred to public hospitals where they can receive adequate and urgent medical care. Addameer calls on the international community to hold Israeli authorities liable to their signed agreement and cease the systematic abuse of Palestinian prisoners.
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