Israel Must Immediately Release or Provide Medical Treatment for Soccer Professional On Hunger Strike

Press Release
June 15, 2012

Israel Must Immediately Release or Provide Medical Treatment for Soccer Professional On Hunger Strike

Family Fears Prisoner on Verge of Death

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) -- Amnesty International said today a Palestinian soccer professional at risk of death after more than 90 days on hunger strike in protest against his detention by Israel should immediately be admitted to a civilian hospital or released so that he can receive life-saving medical care.

Mahmoud al-Sarsak, from the Gaza Strip, has been detained by Israel since July 2009. He is the only detainee currently held under the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law, which allows Israel to hold individuals without charge or trial based on secret information.

Under the law, detainees can be held indefinitely unless they can prove they are not a threat to Israeli security.

"After almost three years in detention, the Israeli authorities have had ample opportunity to charge al-Sarsak with a recognizable criminal offense and bring him to trial," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa director. "They have failed to do so, and instead have repeatedly affirmed his detention order on the basis of secret information withheld from him and his lawyer."

Al-Sarsak has been repeatedly denied proper access to medical treatment during his hunger strike. For someone on the verge of death, this amounts to inhumane and degrading treatment in violation of Israel's international obligations.

On Wednesday, al-Sarsak's family in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, who have not seen their son since his arrest or spoken to him since he went on hunger strike, told Amnesty International they fear he will die in detention. They urged the international community to intervene to save his life.

The same day, al-Sarsak's lawyer told Amnesty International his client continues to be held at the Israel Prison Service medical center at Ramleh, which cannot provide the specialized medical care needed for detainees on prolonged hunger strikes.

"The specialized medical care al-Sarsak urgently needs is only available in a civilian hospital, and he must be admitted to one or released so that he can receive it," Luther said. "Israel should repeal the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law, which lacks minimal safeguards for detainees' rights."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.