The Israeli Prison Service maintains a systematic policy of medical negligence toward Palestinian detainees.

17 September 2014 | Elizabeth Austwick | AIC

Former hunger striker Samer al-Issawi, who was rearrested by Israel in June following the kidnapping of three Israeli teens, is in a deteriorating condition, his family reported after visiting him. Talking to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, they described how he looked pale and feeble and was suffering from noticeable weight loss, whilst Isawihimself complained of pain in his kidneys and difficulties eating.

The prisoner rights group Addameer asserts that the Israeli Prison Service maintains a systematic policy of medical negligence toward Palestinian detainees. Abdullah Al-Zaghari, executive manager of the Palestinian Society Prisoners’ Club, states that there are some 1,200 ill prisoners in Israeli jails, some of whom sustained injuries during their arrests, and who are denied the right to good medical care. Addameer reports that the transfer of prisoners to hospitals for medical treatment generally takes place only weeks or even months following the initial request.

Detention conditions themselves often cause further deterioration of prisoners’ health. Addameer reports that the lack of natural sunlight and moisture in the prisons, along with a poor, imbalanced diet and restrictions on use of the prison yard for exercise, can lead to health problems such as skin diseases, extreme fatigue, anemia and weakness, kidney problems, rheumatism, dental problems and ulcers.

There is one prison hospital, Ramle, in which twenty prisoners are detained. The prison hospital does not provide a good standard of healthcare and the Prisoners’ Club receives regular appeals from prisoners in Ramle, who are suffering from ill-treatment.

Riad Amour, from Bethlehem, who was sentenced to 11 life imprisonment terms, suffers from cardiovascular disorders and needs a replacement heart valve to survive. He was arrested in 2004 and has not had his valve changed for 13 years, despite numerous requests to which he received no answer.

While all Palestinian political prisoners have the right to quality medical treatment, they are repeatedly denied medication and access to doctors or nurses, causing further health problems.

Addameer notes that medication is often limited to over-the-counter pain killers. Former prisoner Motez Al-Azzeh describes how the main medication given out in prison is painkillers, for whatever the injury and without any medical follow up. Ashraf Abu Huda, currently held in an Israeli prison, suffers from sharp back and leg pains that no painkillers have managed to soothe.

The Palestinian Society Prisoners’ Club works with human rights organisations and medical professionals to monitor and assist injured and ill detainees in prisons and Israeli hospitals. Every week the Society organises a sit-in at the Red Cross headquarters with prisoners’ families, calling on the organisation to do more to protect prisoners’ rights.

Palestine Info reports how the family of sick prisoner Rizq Rajoub, 57, has appealed to human rights institutions to intervene as his situation deteriorates. Rajoub spent 22 years in Israeli jails, only to be rearrested 15 days after his release and two days after undergoing gallbladder surgery. He has been taken to hospital more than once due to his deteriorating health and is urgent need of intervention.

Since June 13 there has been a significant rise in the number of Palestinian detainees, with over 2,000 Palestinians arrested since then. This brings the total number of Palestinian political prisoners up to approximately 7,000.

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See also: Ferwana: “266,500 Gazans Kidnapped By The Army Since 1967”

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