The death of Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan is a reminder of the deadly cost that Palestinians pay for challenging Israel’s apartheid and a military justice system rigged against them, Amnesty International said today.
Khader Adnan died in Israel’s Ramle prison on 2 May, after spending 87 days on hunger strike in protest at the Israeli authorities’ systematic arbitrary detention of Palestinians and cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners. Palestinian detainees frequently use hunger strikes to challenge such policies, risking their health and lives in order to demand the rights that Israel denies them.
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Khader Adnan, a baker by trade, had nine children with his wife Randa, who tirelessly campaigned for his release. Since 2004 he had been arrested 13 times by Israeli authorities, due to his affiliation with the political wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement. While PIJ’s armed wing has carried out attacks on Israeli civilians, Khader Adnan himself was never charged with any involvement in acts of violence. In total, he spent eight years in detention, including nearly six years in administrative detention without charge or trial.
“Khader Adnan is the first Palestinian detainee to die as a result of a hunger strike since 1992. When his life was at risk, Israeli authorities refused Khader Adnan access to the specialized care he needed in a civilian hospital and instead left him to die alone in his cell. The appalling treatment of such a high-profile detainee is the latest alarming sign that Israeli authorities are growing increasingly brazen in their contempt for Palestinians’ rights and lives, and increasingly reckless in their cruelty towards Palestinians,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Khader Adnan had gone on five hunger strikes before – four times in protest at Israel’s systematic and discriminatory use of administrative detention to imprison Palestinians without charge or trial, and once to protest his own solitary confinement. Like so many Palestinians in Israeli prisons, Khader Adnan had no other means of challenging the injustices to which he and thousands of others are subjected under Israel’s apartheid.
“It is growing harder by the day for Palestinians to speak out against their own oppression. Those who attend protests risk being arrested, seriously injured or unlawfully killed. Human rights defenders are placed under travel bans, arrested, or forcibly transferred or deported; the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is outlawed; human rights organizations are banned; and hunger strikers are putting their lives at risk. Khader Adnan’s death is the latest reminder that there will be no justice for Palestinians until apartheid is dismantled.”
In February 2023, Khader Adnan was arrested and indicted by an Israeli military court on charges of “incitement to violence” – largely based on his visits to the families of Palestinian prisoners and to funerals of those killed by Israeli forces. In the majority of Khader Adnan’s previous spells in detention there were no charges against him, and indictment was unusual.
Inhuman and degrading treatment
Israel authorities have claimed that Khader Adnan refused to undergo medical treatment. However, a doctor who visited him during his hunger strike told Amnesty International that authorities had denied him access to the independent specialized medical treatment and monitoring he needed. The doctor said Khader Adnan had requested to be kept under medical supervision in a civilian hospital, but the Israeli Prison Service had sent him back to his prison cell where guards came in every half hour to see if he was still alive. The denial of proper medical treatment to Khader Adnan was a violation of his right to health and constitutes inhuman and degrading treatment.
Khader Adnan spent a total of six years in administrative detention – detention without charge or trial for indefinitely renewable periods. Administrative detention orders, which are often rubber stamped by Israel’s military courts, are routinely used to punish and repress any form of dissent against Israel’s repressive military rule.
Administrative detention orders issued by the Israeli military against Palestinians are based on secret evidence and are almost automatically approved by the military courts which operate in the occupied West Bank. Detainees cannot challenge the grounds of their detention – a denial of their right to due process.
Israel’s systematic and discriminatory use of administrative detention against Palestinians forms part of its system of domination and oppression and constitutes the crime against humanity of apartheid. Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, imprisonment in violation of fundamental rules of international law also constitutes a crime against humanity, if committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.
More than 24 hours after his death, Khader Adnan’s family have yet to receive his body back for burial despite a petition filed by his lawyer on Tuesday. Amnesty International is calling on Israeli authorities to expedite the release of Khader Adnan’s body to his family to enable a dignified burial, as required under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
“Today we reiterate Khader Adnan’s demands for humane treatment and fair trials for Palestinian prisoners and an end to the use of administrative detention,” said Heba Morayef.
“Israel’s military courts and the practice of administrative detention invert the basic tenets of justice, automatically treating Palestinians as suspects simply because of their race, and help to maintain Israel’s cruel apartheid system.”
While not prohibited under international humanitarian law, administrative detention is only lawful if employed for imperative security reasons. Israel’s routine and extensive use of administrative detention renders it arbitrary, therefore violating international human rights and humanitarian law. Also, in contravention of international law, it is used in a deeply discriminatory manner – at the beginning of May 2023, there were 1,010 people in administrative detention in Israel, all but four of whom were Palestinian. This is the highest number of Palestinians in administrative detention in three decades.
At the end of 2022, some 4,900 Palestinians were reportedly held in Israeli prisons.