Israel’s High Court has dismissed a petition from Israeli doctors who argued that a new law to force-feed Palestinian hunger-strikers in prison was “tantamount to torture”.
The country’s top justices ruled that laws dealing with patients’ rights did not apply to hunger-strikers because they were deemed “not an ordinary patient but a person who knowingly and willingly places himself in a dangerous situation”.
In a ruling which appeared to refer to the political consequences of a prisoner’s death, they said there were “implications that go beyond the personal matter of the hunger striker”.
The petition was lodged last year by human rights groups and doctors at the Israel Medical Association (IMA), who criticised the law allowing the force-feeding of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike as unconstitutional.
IMA chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman said: “This is a case in which medical ethics unequivocally trump the law, and the message we wish to convey to physicians is that forced feeding is tantamount to torture and that no doctor should take part in it.”
However Justices Elyakim Rubinstein, Noam Sohlberg and Meni Mazuz rejected the argument, finding that the force-feeding amendment to the law dealing with “the prevention of harm to the health of a prisoner on hunger strike” was constitutional.
Speaking to Ha’aretz, left-wing parliamentarian Tamar Zandberg MK said the new law was “cruel, immoral and unethical,” adding: “Force feeding is defined as abuse and is contrary to the Hippocratic Oath.”
Dozens of Palestinians have taken part in hunger strikes in recent years. Most have been held in administrative detention, in which they are detained without charge or trial. Once their condition deteriorates severely, their administrative detention is typically cancelled, but many are re-arrested once their condition improves.
In recent days authorities have cancelled the administrative arrest of Mohammed and Mahmoud al-Bulbul and Malik al-Qadi, who is in a coma. All three have refused food for more 60 days.