On Sunday, August 21, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal to release Khalil Awawdeh, a Palestinian detainee who was hospitalized in early August after going on hunger strike for several months. Awawdeh stopped eating food and drinking anything other than water in March of 2022 to protest his detention without charge or trial. According to Awawdeh’s family, he went over 170 days without eating, except for a ten-day period in June, during which he received vitamin injections because he thought his case was being resolved. Awawdeh’s appeal was made by his lawyer Ahlam Haddad, and it called for his immediate release due to his deteriorating medical condition.
“There is no doubt there is a risk for his life,” Dr. Lina Qasem-Hassan, a doctor with Physicians for Human Rights, said of Awawdeh after visiting him in early August. She reported that Awawdeh was extremely thin, suffering from malnutrition, showed several signs of neurological damage, and faced a risk of heart failure or kidney failure at any time.
It was despite these very clear signs of Awawdeh’s failing health that the Israeli court declared that there was “solid and strong justification for the decision of administrative detention,” although the “classified security information” it claims to have examined before reaching this decision has yet to be released publicly.
Despite the ruling, Haddad remains determined to save her client from continued detention and plans on filing another request for Awawdeh’s release as soon as his condition worsens further. “This is the equation, a difficult equation” she explained.
It is indeed a difficult equation, and yet the problem it seeks to solve is one that never should have existed in the first place. Israel refers to cases like Awawdeh’s, in which the detainee can be held without charge, trial, or being shown the alleged evidence against them, as “administrative detentions.” The practice has been criticized by human rights groups as a denial of due process and another way for Israel to eliminate opposition to its decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory. Abuses of justice like administrative detention only contribute further to the Israeli government’s oppression of the Palestinian people, and international human rights authorities need to do more to prevent this type of injustice from being committed.
Of the approximately 4,400 Palestinian prisoners held by the Israeli government, 670 are held in administrative detention. That number grew rapidly in March as Israel began frequent night-time raids in the occupied West Bank following a series of deadly attacks against Israelis. Israeli military arrested Awawdeh in December 2021 under the accusation that he was an operative for the armed group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a claim that his lawyer has since dismissed. He is one of several Palestinian prisoners that have led lengthy hunger strikes in opposition to Israel’s illegal detention practices. Many of them continue to suffer permanent health problems post-release.
Awawdeh’s story is one of incredible strength in the face of systemic oppression, and one can only hope that he achieves the outcome he deserves. The same is true of all Palestinians, who live under the terror of an occupying government regularly committing human rights abuses against them. The time for the international community to act began long ago, and every moment that passes without action is one of increasing injustice.
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