Medact strongly objects to new legislation passed by the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, enabling force-feeding of prisoners and detainees on hunger strike. Medact supports the Israel Medical Association’s principled opposition, and the campaign led by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, against this law, and applauds doctors refusing to carry out or comply in any way with this measure.
The law, passed on 30 July 2015, was initiated in response to hunger strikes repeatedly staged by Palestinians held in Israeli custody in recent years, in protest against administrative detention (internment without trial) and severe conditions of incarceration. Although politicians have claimed it would protect the lives of hunger-strikers, the law explicitly cites public safety and security justifications for the use of the measure, making medical considerations subject to political ones.
The proposed bill authorizes a district court to order force-feeding and/or forced medical care without the consent of the hunger-striker, based on ‘state security considerations, public safety (concern for human life), and the prison’s responsibility to protect the prisoner’s life.’ The law provides for the use of secret evidence and closed hearings, and ensures immunity for anyone carrying out or participating in force-feeding.
- IMA Chair Leonid Eidelman has repeatedly defined forced feeding of hunger strikers as torture and has called on all Israeli doctors to refuse to comply with it.
- The World Medical Association addressed the Prime Minister of Israel on 19 June 2015 asking that he reconsider the legislation, which contravenes the Malta and Tokyo Declarations.
- The UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and on the Right to Health issued a joint statement on 20 June 2015 urging the Israeli government not to promote the law and defining force-feeding as a cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, which can amount to torture.
- Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has led a campaign against the law among Israeli and international medics. Their factsheet and statement provide further information.
- The full version of the law (Hebrew) is available at http://fs.knesset.gov.il/19/law/19_ls2_pb_306487.pdf