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Palestinian 69 Days Without Food- and Counting

Palestinian hunger striker approaches his 69th day without food, the UN reacts

Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric spoke on the issue at August 22nd's noon briefing UN Photo/ Evan Schneider

After being placed under administrative detention by Israeli authorities, Palestinian Bilal Kayed has undertaken a hunger strike until his release. The strike has caught the eye of the United Nations, as it speaks to a larger issue

In Israel, an imprisoned Palestinian man has undertaken a hunger strike, in response to his release from a 14.5 year prison sentence going unfulfilled. Upon completing his sentence, Bilal Kayed, who was jailed for his affiliation with the leftist political group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was placed under administrative detention by authorities, despite a belief that he was scheduled for release. “Administrative detention involves judicial proceedings without standard trial and evidentiary procedures, with only the judge overseeing the case getting to see all of the classified evidence and the defendant receiving a mere paraphrase,” and has come under fire as being a way to evade the UN’s mandate that prisoners be either convicted and jailed or released.

While the Israeli government cited their reasons for continuing to keep Mr. Kayed in custody, many have spoken out against the government’s actions, saying that this process of holding prisoners indefinitely is one which Israel has begun to use habitually. Several others have joined Mr. Kayed’s strike, with reports coming on that over 100 prisoners- many of whom are also members of the PFLP- have also begun fasting in solidarity, and in protest. In an article published by Al Jazeera, Hana Herbst of the Israel Prison Service denied that a mass hunger strike was underway, saying that “The few hunger strike attempts that have taken place were treated by deprivation of privileges, as IPS handles any other prisoners’ disciplinary violation. Routine operations are maintained but as far as I know, no violent raids occurred.” The deprivation of privileges and punishments for undergoing a hunger strike include revocation of personal visits and placement into solitary confinement. Once such prisoner who was escorted into solitary was Ahmad Sa’adat, the General Secretary of the PFLP and supporter of Mr. Kayed.

In the noon briefing at UN Headquarters on August 22nd,  the issue was raised to the Spokesman for the Secretary General Stephane Dujarric, who cited a response to the issue by Robert Piper, the UN’s resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory. He quoted from the statement that “this was an egregious case in which Mr. Kayed was placed in administrative detention having completed his fourteen and a half year prison sentence. Mr. Piper noted that the number of administrative detainees is at an eight year high, and reiterated the United Nation’s longstanding position that all administrative detainees, Palestinian or Israeli, should be charged or released without delay.” (Quote at 10:18.)  Mr. Piper also said in his statement on Saturday that he was “deeply concerned about the deteriorating health of Palestinian detainee Bilal Kayed, after 67 days of a hunger strike protesting his detention without charge or trial,” a concern which is well warranted as Mr. Kayed’s health has been deteriorating rapidly as his strike progresses.

La Voce will continue to follow this story and report on updates.

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