The Israeli authorities should release Walid Daqqah, a terminally ill Palestinian prisoner, so he can access specialist medical care and spend his remaining time with his family, Amnesty International said today.
Walid Daqqah, 62, suffers from chronic lung disease and bone marrow cancer, and the clinic at Israel’s Ayalon Prison is ill-equipped to deal with his conditions. Following his cancer diagnosis last year, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) denied Walid Daqqah access to a potentially life-saving bone marrow transplant by refusing to transfer him to a civilian hospital.
”Walid Daqqah’s case illustrates the Israeli justice system’s cruelty towards Palestinians, including those who are seriously ill or dying. Walid’s health conditions have already been exacerbated by medical neglect on the part of the Israeli Prison Service – when he had a stroke earlier this year, the IPS refused to transfer him to a proper hospital for 11 days, a delay which led to life-threatening complications. Now, Walid Daqqah faces the prospect of a painful death behind bars,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Denying prisoners access to adequate medical care violates international standards on the treatment of detainees, and may constitute torture. Israeli authorities must release Walid Daqqah on humanitarian grounds as soon as possible, and ensure that he is provided with the medical care he urgently needs.”
Walid Daqqah served a 37-year prison sentence for his involvement with an armed group that abducted and killed an Israeli soldier in 1984. He completed this sentence in March 2023. However, in 2018 he was sentenced to a further two years on charges of attempting to smuggle phones to other Palestinian prisoners. He is now due for release in March 2025 – a date he may not live to see.
On 26 June 2023, a special parole board rejected Walid Daqqah’s request for early release on the grounds of his illness. On 7 August 2023, the Lod District Court rejected Walid Daqqah’s petition against the parole board’s decision.
Amnesty International’s 2022 report on Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians sets out how the Israeli military justice system systematically discriminates against Palestinians and denies them the right to a fair trial and due process.
In 2022 Walid Daqqah was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a rare form of bone marrow cancer. He also has chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD). Following the IPS’s delay in transferring him for emergency treatment after his stroke in February, Walid Daqqah suffered a host of complications including pneumonia and kidney failure, and had to have most of his right lung removed.
Amnesty International reviewed a medical evaluation of Walid Daqqah’s case conducted by Israeli haematologist Moshe Gatt, whose opinion was requested by Physicians for Human Rights Israel in January 2023. As Walid’s condition has worsened, the IPS has continued to ignore Dr Gatt’s recommendation that he be relocated to a clean and hygienic environment.
Walid Daqqah’s wife Sanaa Salameh told Amnesty International that her husband had been subjected to “systematic” and longstanding medical negligence in prison.
Amnesty International also saw a medical evaluation carried out by Dmitry Klotzky, a chief medical officer at the IPS, who said that Walid’s prognosis was “extremely poor” and that he needs help with all daily activities.
Palestinian human rights organizations such as Addameer have long documented Israel’s policy of medical negligence against Palestinian prisoners. The World Health Organization and the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT have also raised concerns about the IPS’s treatment of sick Palestinian prisoners.
The United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states that “prisoners should enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the community, and should have access to necessary health-care services free of charge without discrimination on the grounds of their legal status.”
Punitive solitary confinement
Walid Daqqah, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was arrested in March 1986. A year later, a military court convicted him of commanding a group affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which had abducted and killed Israeli soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984. He was not convicted of carrying out the murder himself, but of ordering other members of the group to kill Moshe Tamam. Walid Daqqah says he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment during interrogation. He was sentenced to life in prison, but in 2012 this was capped at 37 years and he completed the sentence in March 2023.
Amnesty International condemns the killing of Moshe Tamam as a violation of the Geneva Conventions’ absolute prohibition on violence to the life and person of armed forces members who have laid down their arms, including those in captivity.
During his time in prison Walid Daqqah wrote numerous essays on the impact of incarceration on Palestinian society, a novel for young adults, and many letters describing prison life – one of which was adapted into a play. Following the publication of his novel, the IPS placed Walid in punitive solitary confinement.
Petitions for conjugal visits by Walid and his wife Sanaa have been repeatedly rejected by Israeli authorities. All Palestinians classified as “security prisoners” are denied this right – which is usually granted to Jewish Israeli prisoners with the same designation. In 2019, Walid and Sanaa managed to conceive a child by smuggling sperm out of the prison, and their daughter Milad was born in 2020. Walid was placed in solitary confinement following Milad’s birth and was not allowed to see his child for the first 18 months of her life.
Walid Daqqah’s family is planning to file an appeal with the Israeli Supreme Court – but, as they told Amnesty International, “time is a luxury we don’t have.”
“Walid Daqqah and his family should not be battling their way through a legal labyrinth at such a painful time. According to the medical evaluations we saw, Walid’s prognosis is between one and two years – keeping him detained until 2025 is cruel and unnecessary,” said Heba Morayef.
“We urge the Israeli authorities to release Walid Daqqah, end the systematic denial of adequate medical care to sick Palestinian prisoners, and ensure they respect all international standards on the treatment of detainees.”