UN ‘concerned’ for life of Palestinian hunger striker

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights raised concerns on Wednesday over the situation of Palestinian terrorist Mohammed al-Qeq, who has been on hunger strike for over two months in protest against his administrative detention in an Israeli jail.

Israel’s Supreme Court was scheduled to rule on Thursday on whether to release al-Qeq, who began his hunger strike on Nov. 25, four days after he was detained under Israel’s administrative detention law, which allows suspects to be jailed for renewable six-month periods without trial or charge. Such detention is usually applied to people suspected of planning terrorist attacks or inciting violence.

The head of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, James Heenan, told Reuters TV that the organization is deeply concerned.

“The situation of Mr. al-Qeq has raised concerns in the international community; both the secretary-general and the resident coordinator here in Palestine have raised deep concerns about his situation,” Heenan said in his office in Ramallah. “Mr. al-Qeq is complaining about issues of the legality of detention and conditions of detention, particularly administrative detention in Israel. The international human rights community, particularly the Human Rights Committee, has maintained that that form of detention should be ceased. The detention is based often on vague grounds on secret evidence, it can be prolonged indefinitely, and for these reasons the United Nations Human Rights Committee has called for Israel to end this system of administrative detention.”

Fellow journalists protested in Ramallah in support of al-Qeq.

“A short while ago, the lawyer told us that Mohammed is in a dangerous condition. Especially with each day that passes by, Mohammed loses (the feeling in some) parts of his body,” his brother, Hamam al-Qeq, said. “Today Mohammed can’t talk at all and can’t hear. He even did not recognize his lawyer. With each additional day at the hospital, Mohammed is losing parts of his life and his body.”

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled against the release of al-Qeq on Jan. 27, but was to revisit the case on Thursday.

Israel’s use of the decades-old policy of detention without formal charge has drawn international criticism. Some Palestinian administrative detainees have used hunger strike protests to try to effect their release. According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, around 600 Palestinian administrative detainees and a further 7,000 Palestinians are being held in Israeli prisons.