The law potentially affects all detainees but particularly Palestinian detainees who have resorted to hunger strikes to protest their conditions, including their prolonged detention on administrative orders without charge. Hunger strikes are a non-violent form of protest used by individuals who have exhausted other forms of protest to highlight the seriousness of their situations. The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental human right.
The Israeli Medical Association has said that force-feeding is tantamount to torture.1 United Nations human rights experts2 have called it a violation of internationally-protected human rights. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Mendez, has called "feeding induced by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints of individuals, who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike to protest against their detention ... tantamount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, even if intended for their benefit." The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius POras, has observed that "(u)nder no circumstance will force-feeding of prisoners and detainees on hunger strike comply with human rights standards. Informed consent is an integral part in the realization of the right to health."3
The principle of an individual's right to informed and voluntary refusal of medical measures is reiterated in several basic United Nations human rights documents4 where lack of free and informed consent is considered a clear violation of an individual's right to health.
The World Health Organization (WHO), according to guidance on health in prison published by the WHO Regional Office for Europe, 5 including on forced feeding of prisoners on hunger strike, referred to the revised World Medical Association's Declaration of Malta (Declaration on Hunger Strikers):6
1 Israel Medical Association, position paper, http://www.ima.org.il/ENG/ViewCategorv.aspx?CategorvId=4497
4 OHCHR and WHO, The Right to Health, Fact Sheet No. 31. http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/Factsheet31.pdf
5 "Health in prisons: A WHO guide to the essentials in prison", WHO Regional Office for Europe (2007), p. 40. http://www.euro.who.int/ data/assets/pdf file/0009/99018/E90174.pdf