U.N. tells Israel of concern for one Palestinian hunger striker


A U.N. envoy called on Israel on Friday to do all it can for the health of a Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for the past 55 days in protest at his detention without charge.

Robert Serry, the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said he “follows with concern reports about the deteriorating conditions” of Khader Adnan, who has been refusing food since December 18 ̶ longer than any Palestinian prisoner before him, according to Palestinian officials.

Serry said he “calls on the government of Israel to do everything in its power to preserve the health of the prisoner and resolve this case while abiding by all legal obligations under international law.”

Early this month, a military court ordered that Adnan, 33, be held in administrative detention for four months, although with his condition frail and worsening, he has been held mostly in a string of Israeli hospitals since early January.

On Thursday, he appealed his detention without charge before an Israeli military judge sitting in a special session in hospital, but the court is not expected to rule before Sunday, his lawyer told AFP.

Adnan, who was arrested near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, had served as a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, but Israel has not charged him formally or revealed any evidence against him.

Under Israeli military law, a court can order an individual held for up to six months at a time without charge, although the order can be appealed.

Each renewal must be approved in a new court session, but the renewals theoretically continue indefinitely.

Serry recalled that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had discussed the situation of Palestinian prisoners during his visit to Israel and the occupied territories earlier this month.

Serry said that his office had been following up on the issue, particularly as regards those held without charge.

“Administrative detention... should only be employed in exceptional circumstances, for as short a period as possible and without prejudice to the rights guaranteed to prisoners,” the U.N. envoy said.

Administrative detention, is a system that allows Israel to hold suspected militants without charge based on secret information that is not shared with lawyers. It is generally used in cases deemed high-risk.

His deteriorating condition

Adnan has lost 60 pounds (27 kilograms) and now weighs about 140 pounds (63 kilograms). His skin is discolored, his hair has fallen out, he cannot walk, and he has been shackled to his bed, said lawyers and his wife Randa, who have seen him in a series of Israeli hospitals.

He is drinking water that is occasionally enhanced with electrolytes and vitamins he needs to keep him alive. His condition is considered severe.

The protest could not only cost Adnan his life but could also have political implications.

Adnan is being held under guard at an Israeli hospital, and prison officials say they are watching his condition closely. The prison service declined comment Thursday, but officials have said in the past that they have permission to force feed Adnan if necessary.

Adnan’s lawyers appealed the detention order Thursday at a special hearing in the hospital, said Mahmoud Hassan, one of his lawyers. There was no ruling and the judge could take a week to give his decision.

Hassan, who works for the prisoners’ advocacy group Addameer, said he was barred from discussing specifics of the hearing. But he said Adnan attended the hearing in a wheelchair, his hands and feet in shackles. He spoke with difficulty and vowed to continue his hunger strike.

Adnan is only allowing doctors from the Israel branch of Physicians for Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross to check on his condition. Neither group would comment.

The case has generated widespread support in Palestinian society.

Small demonstrations in support of Adnan have been held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent days. Followers exchange updates on Twitter, and Facebook users have changed their profile pictures to that of a bearded Adnan.

Adnan believes his imprisonment, and the events leading to his detention, have robbed him of his dignity, according to his wife and lawyers.

“My husband tells me, ‘I am striking against humiliation,’” said Randa Adnan. “His determination is strong, even though he resembles a man who has stepped away from life.”

Adnan began his hunger strike shortly after he was arrested in a raid on his home on December 17 in the northern West Bank village of Arabeh.

Adnan claims soldiers made sexual innuendoes about his wife and mocked his Muslim faith. He also says Israeli agents beat him during interrogations, tied him in painful positions to a chair, ripped hair out of his beard and wiped dirt on his face. Israeli officials have not commented on those allegations.

He is also protesting his administrative detention.