ResourcesPress Release

Israel’s Plan to Force-Feed Hunger-Striking Journalist Violates Medical Ethics and International Law

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today denounced Israel’s decision to force-feed a Palestinian hunger striker, stating that any health professional participation in such a practice violates the ban on torture and ill-treatment in medical ethics and international law.

According to news reports, Israel Prison Service’s Medical Committee is planning to force-feed Mohamed al-Qiq, a Palestinian journalist who was arrested in November 2015. Al-Qiq has been on a prolonged hunger strike to protest his placement under administrative detention, without charge or trial. The Israeli Prison Service’s decision constitutes the first application of recent changes to Israel’s Prisons Act, which authorize the force-feeding of detainees. PHR is urging Israel to refrain from force-feeding any prisoners and to repeal legislation authorizing this unethical and inhumane practice.

“Around the world, states are trying to coopt health professionals and use them to support and legitimize policies of harm,” said Widney Brown, PHR’s director of programs. “But all health professionals have a fundamental ethical duty to ’do no harm.’ Israeli doctors must not force-feed hunger strikers, which violates their health and dignity, not to mention medical ethics.”

The World Medical Association explicitly prohibits the force-feeding of hunger strikers – a policy that has been adopted by more than 100 professional associations, including the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) and the American Medical Association. Force-feeding also violates internationally-protected human rights, including the right to be free from torture and ill-treatment, the right to bodily integrity, and the right to peacefully protest. UN experts have repeatedly denounced policies authorizing the force-feeding of prisoners in Israel and at Guantánamo Bay, recognizing these practices as “tantamount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

PHR joins the IMA and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel in urging doctors to refuse to violate their ethical and professional standards by force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike.

PHR is distinct from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, an independent human rights NGO based in Israel. Both organizations are members of the Steering Committee of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition and have partnered on other advocacy initiatives.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.