Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was also attended by Spokespersons for the Human Rights Council, International Organization for Migration, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, United Nations Refugee Agency and World Food Programme.
Ravina Shamdasani, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said OHCHR continued to follow closely the situation of Palestinian hunger strikers protesting Israel's ongoing practice of administrative detention. The Secretary-General and the High Commissioner had repeatedly stated that administrative detainees should be charged or released without delay. The health of a number of hunger strikers was reportedly critical and continued to deteriorate.
OHCHR was concerned that the legislative amendment on force-feeding before the Israeli Knesset could be passed as early as Monday, 23 June 2014, and that a new provision reportedly allowing for the sedation of prisoners who refused force-feeding had been introduced in the bill, said Ms. Shamdasani. The High Commissioner had written to the Israeli Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva to express her concerns that, if passed, that amendment would permit force-feeding and medical treatment of prisoners on hunger strike against their will under certain conditions, in contravention of international standards
OHCHR was closely following the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory after three Israeli teenagers went missing on 12 June in the West Bank near the city of Hebron. It expressed its solidarity with the boys' families and hoped the teenagers would be located, as soon as possible, safe and sound to be reunited with their families. Also, this morning, a Palestinian teenager was reportedly shot and killed in the West Bank, said Ms. Shamdasani, which added to the tragedy of teenagers and children falling victim to the failure to resolve the situation.
Ms. Shamdasani said OHCHR was concerned by reports, that since 12 June, more than 200 Palestinians had been detained in the West Bank in the context of security operations by Israel. Restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians had been tightened, including the banning of men from Hebron between the age of 20 and 50 from crossing into Jordan. The Israeli cabinet had also reportedly decided to impose harsher conditions on prisoners affiliated with Hamas.
OHCHR urged all actors to ensure respect for international human rights and international humanitarian law, including by avoiding punishing individuals for offences they have not personally committed or by imposing collective penalties, said Ms. Shamdasani.
A journalist asked Ms. Shamdasani whether OHCHR regarded forcible feeding as a form of torture, and also whether the Israeli authorities had made any comment on the situation. Ms. Shamdasani responded that the Israeli authorities had replied to a letter from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, dated 26 May, to say the letter had been forwarded to Jerusalem, but no substantive reply had been received. Furthermore, the OHCHR office in Ramallah had met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel to convey these concerns.
On forcible feeding, Ms. Shamdasani said the Special Rapporteur on Torture had stated that indefinite detention and the use of forced feeding were forms of ill treatment which could amount to torture. The World Medical Association had also come out very strongly against forced feeding, saying it was never ethically acceptable. Furthermore, the Israeli Medical Association itself had recommended to the Government that it should trust in medical management rather than artificial feeding and sedation amounting to forcible feeding.