Hana Shalabi: Medical Urgency and Spiritual Defiance


Human Wrongs Watch

By Richard Falk* – TRANSCEND  – The respected human rights NGOs, Addameer-Palestine and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, have expressed their deep concern for the mortal danger facing Hana Shalabi who continues her historic hunger strike to protest abuse that she experienced and her objections to the Israeli practice of prolonged detention without charges, without trial.

**Demonstrating for releasing Hana Shalabi

There are reported to be currently as many as 24 other Palestinians in administrative detention that have declared their own hunger strike in solidarity with Hana Shalabi’s protest.

There are signs of growing expressions of global awareness and solidarity, including a vigil in Trafalgar Square on 23 March at 6:30 pm and Day of Action in Glascow, Scotland on the following day. There are new allegations that even in her present circumstances of clinging to life, she has been abused by prison authorities, and her family has been denied visitation rights.

“Our Freedom Is More Powerful than Their Cells”

Her father, Yahya Shalabi, is quoted as saying, “My daughter sticks to her words and promises. She has committed to do this for herself and Palestine.” And Hana Shalabi has herself said of this sacrificial commitment, “[i]t is true that our lives are very precious, but our freedom is even more precious and more powerful than their cells.”

Although Israeli newspapers refer to Hana Shalabi in the dehumanizing rhetoric of  ‘a terrorist suspect’ without even acknowledging that a hunger strike is the absolute opposite of terrorism: it turns violence against the innocent self so as to illuminate the wrongs of the guilty other who is rendered exempted from physical harm, and to the extent that others are targets at all, it is in the form of extraordinary appeals to their consciousness and conscience.

We all must not allow these acts of spiritual defiance be in vain. I am posting below the statement released by PHR-I two days ago and a revised version of an earlier post of mine that was published a few  days earlier by Al Jazeera.

Full text of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel statement

On the 33rd day of her hunger strike, administrative detainee Hana Shalabi is in danger of imminent death

On the 33rd day of her hunger strike, administrative detainee Hana Shalabi is in danger of imminent death. An independent physician from Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-Israel) examined her today and determined that she must be hospitalized immediately

“Treatment of Shalabi Violates Medical Ethics”

Physicians for Human Rights: the Prison Service treatment of Shalabi violates medical ethics

Hana Shalabi, an administrative detainee held at the Sharon Prison, has been on hunger strike for more than a month, in protest of her violent detention, the humiliating and hurtful search that was conducted on her upon her detention, and also in protest of being held in administrative detention. A hearing on her case is expected to be held at the military court.

This morning (March 19th) an independent physician visited Hana Shalabi on behalf of PHR-Israel, and she states that there has been a significant deterioration in her condition, and that she risks death. The deterioration is expressed in a process of muscle breakdown, with a weight loss of 14 kg (31 lb.) since the onset of the hunger strike, a very slow pulse, and a drop in blood sodium levels. These symptoms could indicate grave damage to the heart and the beginning of the breakdown of the heart muscle, which could lead to heart failure at any moment.

Additionally, her body temperature is low (hypothermia), recorded at 35.05C (95.09F), with Shalabi reporting that she feels cold. This finding indicates that the energy production in her body is mostly directed at the essential organs, which also indicates possible damage to the heart, which could be expressed in arrhythmia, systemic deterioration, or sudden death.

The attending physician adds that Shalabi is not taking medications, has gone from ambulatory independence to being dependent on others for locomotion, and suffers from significant weakness, low blood pressure, serious pain throughout her body, significant sensitivity in her upper abdominal region, and serious dizziness.

The results of the blood test taken on March 14th indicate a drop in the levels of blood glucose and sodium, and damage to the thyroid functions. The thyroid plays a critical role in maintaining body temperature, as well as heart, liver, and brain function. Significant damage to the thyroid gland could lead to a coma, and this possibility is clearly present with regard to Shalabi. Additionally, blood work done today indicates disruption of the clotting functionality, and a significant lack of iron and vitamins.

Following her examination, the physician has determined that Shalabi is in immediate danger to her life, and recommended that she be transported to a hospital with no delay, for close supervision and follow-up. The Prison Service has announced that it has transported Shalabi to the Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba pursuant to the recommendation of the physician.

Physicians For Human Rights Israel today calls out the problematic conduct by the Israeli Prison Service in its treatment of Hana Shalabi:

  • Great pressure is being exerted on Shalabi to stop the hunger strike, both by the Prison Service Ethics Committee and the Muslim cleric who is a member of that committee.
  • The Chief Medical Officer for the Prison Service communicated with the PHR-I physician, asking that she persuade Shalabi to stop her strike. This clearly violates the principles of medical ethics.
  • Hana’s communication with the PHR-I physician who is supposed to follow up closely on her health – is very limited. For example, when Shalabi asked to see the PHR-I physician last week, the Prison Service did not inform the physician of this request.
  • The results of Shalabi’s blood tests, as communicated to the PHR-I physician last week, over a phone call with the Chief Medical Officer for the Prison Service, were found to be different from the printed results, which were sent from the lab and given to the PHR physician to review physically today. The results conveyed presented a different medical picture than that which actually existed in reality.
  • It seems that the question of force-feeding has not been ruled out, and that the discussion of this matter continues in the Prison Service Ethics Committee.
  • It appears that an attempt is being made to undermine Shalabi’s faith in the independent physician by presenting her with incorrect information. In the course of the physician’s examination today, Shalabi indicated that she had been told by the Prison Service representatives that the PHR independent physician had given the blood tests to the Prison Service, and that she did not wish to take them herself.
“Extreme Concern for Hana Shalabi’s Life”

Physicians For Human Rights again expresses extreme concern for Hana Shalabi’s life. The organization expresses its dismay at the fact that medical teams are still considering the possibility of force-feeding her, despite the fact that international treaties prohibit this.

The organization calls upon the local and the international community to act immediately and intervene for the release of Shalabi, and to act to end Israel’s use of administrative detention.

For reports of prior examinations by the PHR physician see: March 13th.

Background:

On 23 February 2012 an administrative detention order for six months was issued for Ms. Hana Shalabi. On 29 February there was a hearing regarding her detention in Ofer military court. On 4 March the military court decided to reduce the detention period from six to four months, but without promising to extend or renew it. As a result, Ms. Hana Shalabi announced she would continue to hunger strike until her release. On 7 March, an appeal hearing regarding the court’s decision was held at Ofer, and the military judge ordered the parties to try and reach a compromise by Sunday 11 March, but no agreement has yet been reached.

Administrative detainees’ protests are growing. Two additional administrative detainees, Bilal Diab and Thair Halahleh declared hunger strikes on 1 March, which they claim will continue until their release from administrative detention. On 3 March, two other administrative detainees declared hunger strikes until their release.

Since the beginning of March, a number of administrative detainees have refused to acknowledge the military court and refused to participate in legal hearings of their cases. Due to Israel’s use of administrative detention, and the unwillingness of the military court to interfere in this practice, a hunger strike serves as a non-violent and the sole tool available to administrative detainees to protest and fight for their basic human rights.

Approximately 309 Palestinians are currently held in administrative detention in 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 a public indictment. Therefore, administrative detainees and their lawyers cannot defend against these allegations in court.

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*Richard Falk is a member of the TRANSCEND Network, an international relations scholar, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, author, co-author or editor of 40 books, and a speaker and activist on world affairs. He is currently serving his fourth year of a six-year term as a UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights. Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies, and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. His most recent book is Achieving Human Rights (2009). His article was firsts published by TRANSCEND Media ServiceGo to Original – richardfalk.com

**image: demonstrating for releasing Hana | Source: Uprootedpalestinians

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2012 Human Wrongs Watch

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