Joint Statement of the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) & the Arab Association for Human Rights on the Death of Prisoner Maysra Abu Hamdiya
Occupied Ramallah, 3 April 2013 –
It is with a deep sense of mourning and outrage that the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) and the Arab Association for Human Rights greets the news of the death of Maysra Abu Hamdiya (64 years old). Maysra died yesterday morning in the intensive care unit of the Israeli Soroka Hospital as a result of the Israel Prison Service’s (IPS) continuous policy of medical neglect vis-à-vis Palestinian detainees and prisoners. Maysra was married and had four children, all of whom live in Jordan.
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) held Maysra in administrative detention on several occasions in the late 1960s and mid-1970s, finally deporting him to Jordan in 1978. Maysra returned to his homeland in Palestine in 1998 and was re-arrested by the IOF in 2002. In 2005, Maysra was given a life sentence.
Since 2007, Maysra has suffered from a number of illnesses, including bleeding in the stomach, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. He was not provided with the necessary treatment for these conditions, giving way to a severe deterioration of his health condition. As a result of this medical neglect, Maysra became emaciated, falling to a dangerously low weight and losing even the ability to speak.
The IPS has consistently refused to provide adequate medical care to Palestinians in its custody as mandated by the Fourth Geneva Convention, specifically Articles 91 and 92, which assert the detaining authority’s responsibility to provide adequate food and medical care, including monthly and yearly medical examinations. Masyra Abu Hamdiya was never given the required medical examinations, except for when, at the beginning of 2013, a medical exam showed an outbreak of cancer in his glands and throat, which spread as a result of this late diagnosis.
Despite this dire diagnosis, the Occupying Power refused a request from the Palestinian Authority (PA) as well as pleas from Palestinian human rights organizations to immediately release Abu Hamdiya from prison for treatment. Instead, Maysra was transferred from Eshel Prison to Soroka Hospital on 30 March, a mere 48 hours before his death.
Maysra has joined a long list of prisoners who have died as a result of systematic medical neglect and torture at the hands of Israeli authorities. His passing raises the number of deaths in the Palestinian prisoners’ movement to 207, including 52 who died as a result of deliberate and systematic medical neglect in prison, with five of these prisoners dying during the past two years alone.
Palestinian human rights organizations who work on prisoners’ issues have documented more than 1000 prisoners and detainees in Israeli custody who suffer from a variety of illnesses. The IPS also recently acknowledged that at least 25 Palestinian prisoners and detainees currently suffer from cancer.
The PHROC considers the death of Maysra Abu Hamdiya to be the latest in a long series of war crimes committed by Israel through its agents like the IPS against Palestinian prisoners and detainees.
The PHROC expresses its utmost concern for the lives of detainees currently on hunger strike – Samer Al-Issawi, Samer Al-Barq, and Younis Huroub – as well as for the lives of all sick prisoners in the custody of the Occupying Power, which has systematically shown its flagrant disregard for the most basic standards of human rights and dignity.
The PHROC therefore demands that the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon immediately intervene and form an international committee charged with investigating the circumstances surrounding the health of and medical care provided to Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli custody, as well as the circumstances of the Maysra Abu Hamdiya’s death, and intervene to secure the release of all sick prisoners.
PHROC also reiterates its call for a European Union fact-finding mission to investigate the treatment of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons.
The PHROC further demands that the delegation of the ICRC operating in the occupied Palestinian territory respect its mission and obligations based on its international mandate as the guardian of international humanitarian law to guarantee that Palestinian detainees and prisoners receive adequate medical care.
Finally, the PHROC calls on the Palestinian people and all its factions to support the prisoners in order to honor the memory of Maysra Abu Hamdiya and all those who have died in the prisoner’s movement, effectively restoring the prisoners’ movement to the heart of the Palestinian struggle for liberation and human dignity.