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Nablus marches for Hana Shalabi

by Christopher Beckett

21 March 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

On March 19th 2012, in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, ISM volunteers joined demonstrators in solidarity with Ms. Hana Shalabi, now entering her 35th day of hunger strike.

Marching from outside the headquarters of the Red Cross, a group of around a hundred demonstrators marched towards Nablus city centre waving flags, signs and ‘Free Hana Shalabi’ posters. Some of the people attending were the parents of prisoners held illegally by Israel and held aloft photographs of their missing loved ones as they chanted slogans ranging from ‘Free Hana Shalabi’ to End Administrative detention’ and ‘End the occupation’.

Hana was violently abducted from her home in the West Bank village of Burqin on the 16th of February 2012 and was taken into Israeli custody without justification or pretense. Only after she was in custody for close to two weeks did the Israeli courts issue an ‘Administrative detention’ order on the 29th of February.

Administrative detention is the arrest and confinement of individuals by the state without charge or trial, ostensibly for security reasons. Amnesty International believes that administrative detention breaches Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which “makes clear that no-one should be subjected to arbitrary detention and that deprivation of liberty must be based on grounds and procedures established by law”.

According to Amnesty International, approximately 310 Palestinians are currently held in administrative detention inside Israeli prisons. Administrative detention allows Israel to hold detainees for indefinitely renewable six-month periods. The arrest is granted on the basis of ‘secret information’ and without public scrutiny. Therefore, administrative detainees and their lawyers cannot defend against these allegations in court. Hunger strike is therefore the only non-violent method of resistance open to prisoners whose sole demand is that their human rights are respected in accordance with international law.

In a recent report, Amnesty International expressed particular concerns that prisoners in administrative detention were being “held solely for the non-violent exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association.” Hana Shalabi had previously spent two years in administrative detention but was released last October as part of a prisoner exchange negotiated between Israel and Hamas, making this the second time she has been held in this way.

In the last few days we have begun to receive reports that Hana’s health is deteriorating rapidly. ‘Physicians For Human Rights’ have made clear their concern for Hana Shalabi’s life. The organization also expressed its alarm at the recent proposal that doctors and prison staff are still considering the possibility of force-feeding, despite the fact that international treaties explicitly forbid this. A call to action has been issued by various groups in solidarity with Hana and others held alongside her. According to Palestinian human rights group Addameer, at least 24 other prisoners our at various stages of hunger strike inside Israeli prisons. This includes Ahmad Saqer, the longest serving Palestinian prisoner under Administrative detention, held since November 2008.

Christopher Beckett is a volunteer with International Solidarity Movement (name has been changed).