FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

UN Condemns Force-Feeding of Palestinian Prisoners

by

United Nations experts on human rights have urged the Israeli government not to continue force-feeding Palestinian prisoners against their will, as a bill on this issue is facing a Knesset reading on June 30. The UN Special Rapporteurs have called force-feeding a “cruel and inhuman” practice, and severely criticized the bill for demanding that doctors act against their professional ethics and beliefs.

“The desire of the inmates not to eat must be respected for as long as it is clear that they are making that choice voluntarily. Even if it is intended for the benefit of the detainees, feeding induced by threats, coercion, force or the use of physical restraints are tantamount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” said Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

The Israel National Bioethics Council has also expressed it strong opposition to this law. The Council, which was established by the government to serve as the supreme authority to issue recommendations to decision-makers on ethical matters, stated this week, “The council has determined that the proposal that a judge can order force feeding based on some consideration other than safeguarding the life of a hunger-striker goes against the principles of bioethics, and must be utterly rejected.”

The bill has also been strongly opposed by the Israel Medical Association and Physicians for Human Rights. With his characteristic insouciance on these matters, however, Netanyahu said that he would make sure to find physicians who would consent to carry out this measure. Netanyahu’s opinion comes at the same time that this issue is being discussed in the United States, where it has also been rejected by human rights advocates.

In the U.S., District Court Judge Gladys Kessler determined that the U.S. military can force-feed a Syrian detainee at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Judge Kessler said that she was faced with an “anguishing” choice: to issue another restraining order that would prevent the military from force-feeding Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian national, “despite the very real probability” that he would die as a result, or to refuse to extend the order “at the possible cost of great pain and suffering” to the prisoner.

Force-feeding, or feeding a person against their consent, involves placing the prisoner in a restraining chair, inserting a tube through his nose and down his throat, and pumping a nutritional drink into his stomach. This brief description doesn’t convey the pain and the serious health risks that this practice entails.

In 1914, Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union in the UK, was appalled by the screams of women being forced-fed in HM Prison Holloway during hunger strikes in which she participated. In her autobiography she wrote, “Holloway became a place of horror and torment. Sickening scenes of violence took place almost every hour of the day, as doctors went from cell to cell performing their hideous office…I shall never while I live forget the suffering I experienced during the days when those cries were ringing in my ears.”

Force-feeding prisoners has been prohibited since 1975 by the Declaration of Tokyo of the World Medical Association. In its guidelines for physicians the declaration states, “Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such voluntary refusal or nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially.” The UN Human Rights Commission said it regards force-feeding at Guantanamo as a form of torture. The U.S. has repeatedly denied that charge.

Under U.S. jurisdiction, force-feeding is frequently used in the military prison in Guantanamo Bay. In 2004, Muslim prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison described in sworn statements that they were forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, both of which are strictly prohibited in Islam. In other cases, prisoners described being fed from toilets.

In March 2006, 250 doctors wrote an open letter in The Lancet warning that, in their opinion, the participation of any doctor in force-feeding practice is contrary to the rules of the World Medical Association. “We urge the US government to ensure that detainees are assessed by independent physicians and that techniques such as force-feeding and restraint chairs are abandoned,” said the doctors in the letter. The U.S. military started using restraint chairs for feeding hunger-striking prisoners in 2005 to prevent them from vomiting as a result of forced nutrition.

Presently, there are 189 administrative detainees being held in Israeli prisons, of whom 125 are on hunger strike. Those who didn’t join the strike were unable to do so because of illness or advanced age. Those on hunger strike have done so for more than 40 days, a situation that seriously threatens their survival. Should some of them die as a result of the strike, it would create a serious upheaval in the Palestinian streets. To ignore the prisoners’ plight and to conduct a barbaric practice on them does a disservice to Israeli democracy and its avowed respect for human rights.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail