Award-winning Investigative Journalist Robert Parry (1949-2018)

Award-winning investigative journalist and founder/editor of, Robert Parry has passed away. His ground-breaking work uncovering Reagan-era dirty wars in Central America and many other illegal and immoral policies conducted by successive administrations and U.S. intelligence agencies, stands as an inspiration to all in journalists working in the public interest.

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Jailed Palestinian Hunger Strikers Win Concessions from Israelis on Improved Prison Conditions

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Posted May 30, 2012

Interview with Saher Francis, human rights lawyer and director of Addameer, a prisoner support and human rights association based in the West Bank, conducted by Melinda Tuhus


Hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners held in administrative detention inside Israel are nothing new, but extended hunger strikes undertaken in 2011 and 2012 this year have garnered more media coverage in the U.S. than previous prison campaigns. The latest hunger strikes were undertaken to demand an end to harsh restrictions put in place after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was taken prisoner in 2006 by members of Hamas and held in Gaza for five years.

But even after a deal was struck last October for Shalit’s release, in exchange for the freeing of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, the onerous conditions in Israeli prisons remained in place. Restrictions included the prolonged isolation of prisoners, a ban on visits from family members from Gaza and some from the West Bank, and the exclusion of reading and academic study materials. Hunger strikers also demanded an end to administrative detention, where many Palestinian prisoners were held without charge or trial for a set period, often to be re-arrested upon their release. Risking damage to their health and even death, individuals carried out hunger strikes ranging from 66 to 77 days. Many now face severe health challenges as they recover. All told, 1,500 prisoners participated in the hunger strike from early spring to mid-May. An agreement between the hunger strikers and Israeli authorities was announced on May 14.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Saher Francis, a human rights lawyer and director of Addameer, a prisoner support and human rights association, based in Ramallah in the West Bank. She describes what concessions were won by the hunger strikers and the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation.

SAHER FRANCIS: Of course, the prisoners, they were using all the time – since the beginning of the occupation – the hunger strike as one tool of their resistance inside the prison when (prison administrators) fail to guarantee their basic rights through negotiation with the prison authorities. And it was their method in the past to guarantee the basic rights they have as prisoners. Actually, in the last years, since the beginning of the Second Intifada (2000), we can say, there's a big retreat in all these rights. The prison authorities started to impose more restrictions and commit more violations against the prisoners, 'til the arrest of Shalit, and then things were deteriorating seriously. And this is what led the prisoners in this time, to demand, firstly, not the political demands that they were always putting there, connecting it to the end of the occupation and their release. But this time, they were concentrating more on the humanitarian aspect of their imprisonment, the daily conditions and their dignity in the prison.

And of course, it doesn't mean that they forget or undermine the main issue, because as well the local civil society action that was supporting the prisoners' acts was all the time putting this issue of the prisoners with the big context of the occupation – that the release of all the prisoners should come with the end of the occupation, of course. The issue of the prisoners is part of the question of the occupation and you cannot do negotiations, for example, without solving the issue of the prisoners. So, I think it's a very important part of the civil society movement and in the public struggle against occupation. It was joined as well with, for example, activism against the wall and the settlements. In most of the weekly demonstrations that take place in villages that are affected by the wall, they were supporting the prisoners' case in the time of the hunger strike and they were requesting to respect the demands of the prisoners and to free all the political prisoners.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Sahar Francis, was there a demand to get rid of administrative detention altogether? Was that ever on the table?

SAHER FRANCIS: Actually, this was a complicated problematic issue, because in the agreement we never get a document of the written agreement. In the end, it was an agreement between the Egyptian mediators and the Israeli side, and the Egyptian mediator told the prisoners' committee that was composed of nine members from all the political parties – Palestinian political parties – that the administrative detention issue was there in the agreement. It was not ending the whole use of administrative detention, but rather limiting and using administrative detention just in very serious security issues, and not to extend the detention if they don't have very serious information – because you know that administrative detention is built on secret information, and Israel is using it in a very wide way – and this is why we claim that this is arbitrary detention. It's not illegal according to international law, of course; the Fourth Geneva Convention gives some space for the occupiers to use administrative detention, or arrest without trial, but there's lots of restrictions in international law that Israel is not limiting itself to it when practicing the administrative detention. This was what actually was discussed in the agreement, but unfortunately, in the last two weeks, there's been tens of detainees, their detention was extended and new detainees, they were transferred for administrative detention. So we are not sure that Israel really is restricting the use of administrative detention as it was agreed in the agreement in the hunger strike time.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Do the Palestinian prisoners, and does your organization, Addameer, that supports these prisoners' rights, consider this latest hunger strike a success?

SAHER FRANCIS: It was a good result, and we look at it as a good achievement for the prisoners' movement, but still, as I said before, we have to monitor and to be following closely how this agreement would be implemented, because we can't trust fully the Israeli side that they will fulfill all the demands without any problems, and this is why we are still monitoring closely what's going on.

For more information, visit Addameer at

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