Willful Medical Negligence of Palestinian Prisoners in Israel*
UN Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners affirm their fundamental rights. They require they “be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings.”
“There shall be no discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
“(A)ll prisoners shall be discharged in keeping with a State’s other social objectives and its fundamental responsibilities for promoting the well-being and development of all members of society.”
International human rights law prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It affirms the right to health.
It requires all members of society receive proper treatment to the extent feasible. Incarceration is no excuse to deny them.
Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) requires treating “(a)ll persons deprived of their liberty (with) humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”
America’s Constitution prohibits cruel and usual punishment. US courts interpret this to mean prisoners requiring medical care receive what’s necessary to treat them. Deliberate indifference is considered lawless. US prison authorities do what they please.
So do their Israeli counterparts. International laws and standards are systematically violated. Ill prisoners suffer unjustly out of sight and mind. Almost a million US inmates report one or more chronic health problems. Access to proper care is poor at best.The same holds for Palestinians in Israeli prisons and then some. Conditions resemble gulag hell. Treatment is deplorable. Fundamental human rights are denied.
Geneva’s Common Article 3 requires “humane treatment for all persons in enemy hands, specifically prohibit(ing) murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment (and) unfair trial(s).”
Fourth Geneva’s Article 56 states: “To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.”
“Medical personnel of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their duties.” Article 91 affirms that “Every place of internment shall have an adequate infirmary, under the direction of a qualified doctor, where internees may have the attention they require, as well as an appropriate diet. Isolation wards shall be set aside for cases of contagious or mental diseases.”
Article 92 states “Medical inspections of internees shall be made at least once a month …Their purpose shall be, in particular, to supervise the general state of health, nutrition and cleanliness of internees, and to detect contagious diseases, especially tuberculosis, malaria, and venereal diseases…Such inspections shall include, in particular, the checking of weight of each internee and, at least once a year, radioscopic examination.”
Palestinians are willfully denied proper treatment. Ashraf Abu Dhra is one of many examples. In May 2006, he was imprisoned. In 2008, he became disabled. In detention, he suffered lung failure, immunodeficiency and a brain virus. Deplorable medical neglect killed him. In mid-November 2012, he was released. Ten days later, he lapsed into coma. On January 22, 2013, he died. Proper care would have saved him. On January 2, 2012, Zakaria Issa succumbed to cancer. It was five months after being released. Israel denied him permission to receive specialized treatment in Jordan.
Since 1967, over 200 Palestinian prisoners died in captivity. Some from torture. Others from medical neglect.
Prison life for Muslims is hell. Horrific conditions include severe overcrowding, poor ventilation and sanitation, no change of clothes, adequate clothing, wooden planks with thin mattresses, filthy blankets, inadequate food in terms of quality, quantity or conformance with dietary requirements, restricted or no access to family members and counsel, as well as willful medical neglect.
All of the above is standard practice. Palestinians are treated like sub-humans. Societies perhaps are best judged by how they treat children, the elderly, the poor, most disadvantaged and prisoners.
America strikes out on all counts. So does Israel. Both countries systematically violate fundamental international law. They do it unaccountably. They do it with impunity. They do it because international leaders able to act responsibly do nothing.
Addameer discussed Israeli medical negligence. It’s longstanding. It’s systematic. Palestinians are denied proper care. Most ill prisoners get painkillers at most. It substitutes for proper treatment. Seriously ill inmates wait weeks or months for hospitalization. Deplorable conditions gravely impact health. Sunlight is lacking. So is proper nutrition. Adequate recreation and exercise are restricted. Bone pain, rheumatism and other health problems follow.
Imprisonment takes its toll. Released detainees suffer chronic health problems. They include virtually every illness and disease imaginable. Cancer, skin diseases, kidney problems, dental ones, anemia, and ulcers are commonplace. Prison doctors and other medical staff “find themselves in a situation of ‘dual loyalty,’ ” saidAddameer.
They’re beholden to state authorities. They serve Israel’s security apparatus. They violate their Hippocratic oath. It requires upholding fundamental ethical standards. Working for Israel’s Prison Service requires they abandon them. They do it voluntarily. They’re more witch doctors than real ones. They’re complicit in torture and other forms of abuse. They commit crimes against humanity in the process. They’re accountable only to their conscience. Self-reproach isn’t their long suit.
Ragheb Abu Dyak heads the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club Association. Last November, he said health conditions for inmates were deplorable. More than one-third of prisoners suffer illnesses and diseases. Poor treatment exacerbates them. Incarceration assures a lifetime of pain and suffering for thousands.
Since June 1967, well over 700,000 Palestinians were imprisoned. Most were males. According to Addameer, “the number of Palestinians detained (amounts to about) 40% of the total male Palestinian population in the OPT.”
Arrests are routinely made. Palestinians are guilty of being non-Jews. Every day is Kristallnacht in Palestine. Normal life is denied. Racism is institutionalized. State terror is official Israeli policy. So is collective punishment. Fear is constant. Peaceful public demonstrations are assaulted. Free expression and movement are prohibited. Population centers are isolated. Borders are closed. Crimes of war and against humanity repeat without redress. Wanting to live free in sovereign Palestine is called terrorism.
Suffocating siege affects Gaza. Palestinian lawmakers are imprisoned for belonging to the wrong party. Crimes against humanity persist without end. Palestinians are persecuted everywhere for any reason or none at all – at work, at home, at prayer, in school, at checkpoints, virtually anywhere. Appalling abuses follow. Prison conditions cut them off entirely from the outside world. Isolated prisoners suffer most. So do chronically ill ones.
Proper treatment is willfully denied. Medical neglect is extreme. Required surgery takes months or years to get. Conditions go from bad to worse. “The only medicine given for the treatment of all diseases is painkillers,” said Addameer. Prison authorities “den(y) access (to) medicines from outside…”
Family members, doctors or Palestinian organizations can’t provide it. Prison authorities prohibit it. Pain and suffering follow. It’s at epidemic levels in Israel’s gulag hell. A teenager with Familial Mediterranean Fever complained about severe abdominal pain. He felt like his stomach was about to explode, he said. Chest and joint inflammation exacerbated his condition. He was imprisoned for throwing stones.
Israel denied 18-year old Muhammad surgery until his appendix ruptured. Doing so spread infection throughout his abdomen. He was lucky to stay alive. He was hospitalized for over two weeks. Medical neglect is an international crime. Denying 28-year-old Salem Kassab cost him sight in one eye. Surgery could have saved it. Prison doctors spurned him. Palestinian Minister for Prisoners and former ones, Atallah Abu Subbah, said ill Palestinians endure systematic crimes against humanity in Israeli prisons.
He called on international community leaders to intervene responsibly. Pain and suffering persist. Israel is a world class human rights abuser. Things are worse than ever now. Palestinians suffer out of sight and mind.