As 120 prisoners enter their sixth week of a water-only hunger strike, and the Israeli government announces plans to begin force-feeding the hunger strikers, a United Nations committee has weighed in on the issue that led the prisoners to begin the hunger strike – detention without trial or charge.The practice is known in Israel as ‘administrative detention’, and is used to imprison Palestinians for an indefinite period with no charges or trial. The Israeli government says the practice is necessary for ‘security reasons’, as part of the state of emergency that was declared in 1967 and has not been lifted since.
But, Palestinians claim that the practice is used to silence political dissenters, and organizers of non-violent protests. In addition, the United Nations has, on several occasions, called on Israel to end the practice of imprisonment without trial or charge, as it is a direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
On Thursday, the UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories issued a statement urging Israel to respond to the “desperate plea” of the 120 hunger striking prisoners by either charging them with a crime or releasing them.
Holding prisoners without charge is a practice which is condemned under international law and widely criticized as undemocratic and despotic.
In the statement, the UN Committee said of the hunger strike: “It is a desperate plea by these detainees to be afforded a very basic standard of due process: to know what they are accused of and to be able to defend themselves.”
The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories is also known as the Special Committee on Israeli Practices. It was established by United Nations General Assembly in 1968 with the aim of ensuring and ‘respect for and implementation of human rights in [the Palestinian] occupied territories’.