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 martyrdom of Maysra Abu Hamdiya (64 years old), who died this morning in the intensive care unit of the Israeli Soroka Hospital as a result of the Israel Prison Service's (IPS) continual policy of medical neglect vis-à-vis Palestinian detainees and prisoners.
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. Maysra was married and had four children, all of whom live in Jordan. 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 any of 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 Occupation State 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.
Today, Maysra joined a long list of martyrs who died as a result of systematic medical neglect and torture at the hands of Israeli authorities. His passing raises the number of martyrs of the Palestinian prisoners' movement to 207, including 52 who were martyred as a result of deliberate and systematic medical neglect in prison. Five of these martyrs died during the past two years, specifically since 1 January 2011, when the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) concluded an agreement with the Occupation to cut down the medical services provided to sick prisoners, reducing the financial contribution of the ICRC to costs of medical care in Israeli prisons and requiring prisoners to cover a substantial part of those medical expenses themselves.
Statements released by Palestinian human rights organizations who work on prisoners' issues indicate that more than 1000 prisoners and detainees in Israeli custody suffer from a variety of illnesses. The IPS also recently acknowledged that 25 Palestinian prisoners and detainees currently suffer from cancer.
The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) considers the martyrdom of Maysra Abu Hamdiya to be the latest installment in a long series of war crimes committed by the Occupation State and 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 Occupation, 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 the Honorable 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.
The PHROC also demands that the Honorable Ban Ki Moon immediately and seriously work on securing the release of sick prisoners, as well as the prisoners on hunger strike.
The PHROC further demands that the delegation of the ICRC operating in the Palestinian occupied territory respect its mission and obligations based on its international mandate as a guardian of international humanitarian law and work seriously and without delay to guarantee that Palestinian detainees and prisoners receive adequate medical care, as guaranteed by the peremptory norms of international humanitarian law and the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions.
The Council calls on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to immediately accede to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Council further calls on the PA to actively engage in legal efforts to hold the Occupation State accountable and to contribute to efforts to boycott and divest from the Occupation State.
Finally, the Council calls on the Palestinian people and all its factions to channel their energies towards prisoners' issues in order to honor the memory of Maysra Abu Hamdiya and all other martyrs of the prisoners’ movement, effectively restoring the prisoners’ movement to the heart of the Palestinian struggle for liberation and human dignity.