Over 100 Palestinian Prisoners Join Mass Hunger Strike in Solidarity with Bilal Kayed

Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centers have launched a mass hunger strike in solidarity with hunger-striking administrative detainee Bilal Kayed, who is on 47th day of hunger strike in protest of his administrative detention. The call for hunger strike came amidst resentment of Israeli’s systematic and widespread use of administrative detention, without charge or trial. An estimated 100 Palestinian prisoners have announced the beginning of an open hunger strike starting in mid-July 2016.

Bilal Kayed, a 35-year-old Palestinian from Nablus, was arrested in 2001 and sentenced to 14-and-a-half years. He was previously placed in isolation in Rimon prison since September 2015 until his scheduled release on 13 June 2016. However, a six-month administrative detention order was issued against him on the same day of his scheduled release, immediately after which he was placed back in isolation. Mr. Kayed has been on hunger strike since 15 June 2016 in protest of his detention without charge or trial. The Israeli occupation policy of administrative detention is used in a widespread and systematic manner, which violates international human rights and humanitarian law.

The hunger striking prisoners’ demands include: the release of hunger-striking detainee Bilal Kayed and an end to Israel’s practice of detaining Palestinians without charge or trial in so-called administrative detention. The prisoners are launching a campaign of disobedience including a mass hunger strike and returning of meals, which have resulted in escalating series of punitive measures taken against Palestinian prisoners by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS). These punitive measures have included closure of cells, designation of fora (recreational time) hours, prohibition of family visitations for one month, minimizing the maximum amount of money allowed to be spend in canteen to 600 NIS, which previously was 1200 NIS. The IPS has forced hunger-striking prisoners and detainees to stay in their cells and has carried out violent raids, which involved a search of the room, confiscation of prisoners' possessions, and destruction within the cells of hunger strikers.

Additionally, on 25 July 2016, hunger-striking prisoners and detainees in Ofer prison were placed in isolation and in poor conditions, with some cells lacking any showers. The toilet constituted a hole in the ground, with no privacy and sanitation. The windows were extremely small and the cells were very dirty. Hunger strikers were not given cold water to drink, so they had to drink from the sinks inside their cells. 

Among those who have joined the mass hunger strike are: Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Ahmad Saadat who has spent cumulatively 20 years in Israeli detention (isolation between 2009 – 2012) and the Palestinian Circus Performer Mohammad Abu Sakha, who both decided to show their solidarity with Bilal Kayed and other hunger-striking prisoners and detainees.

Health condition of hunger striking administrative detainee Bilal Kayed has been deteriorating  as result of his open hunger strike. Mr Kayed told his attorney and that he still refuses to undertake any blood test, which makes it difficult to determine his current health condition. Mr. Kayed continues to be shackled with his right hand and his left foot to the bed, and the prison guards have refused to unshackle him even during the visit on 27 July 2016.

Addameer calls on the European Union, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to immediately intervene with Israel in order to save the life of Bilal Kayed and other hunger-striking prisoners and detainees. Addameer demands the release of all administrative detainees. Addameer also demands that the Member States of the United Nations urgently put pressure on Israel to end its policy of arbitrary detention. Addameer further urges all political parties, institutions, organizations and solidarity groups working in the field of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory and abroad to support the prisoners in their hunger strike and demand that their legitimate demands be granted. Addameer will continue to closely follow the prisoners’ mass hunger strike and provide regular updates on the situation as it develops.