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Death of former prisoner highlights medical negligence in Israeli prisons

February 17, 2014 at 1:50 am

The death of former prison detainee, Ashraf Abu-Thurai’a, on Monday [21.01] night shortly after his release from prison has brought attention to the issue of medical negligence in Israeli prisons. There have been calls for international investigation into incidences of detainee deaths, both while imprisoned and after their release; and for quick intervention in order to save those who remain imprisoned.

Dr. Atallah Abu Al-Sabah, Minister for Prisoner Affairs, stressed the need for the formation of an international commission to look into the circumstances surrounding Abu-Thurai’a’s death and the need for immediate intervention in order to save prisoners suffering from serious health complications after been refused release or treatment by the Israeli occupation.

Abu Al-Sabah holds the Israeli occupation fully responsible for Abu-Thurai’a’s death, which was a result of the torture he suffered during his imprisonment and the deliberate withholding of necessary treatment from him prior to his health condition deteriorating. This prompted the prison management to transfer him to Al-Ramla Private Prison Hospital in Hebron to avoid him dying in prison.

It must be mentioned that the former prisoner, Abu-Thurai’a, was held in Israeli prisons for 6 years despite suffering from muscular dystrophy disease and being unable to walk. He was released in mid-November of last year, and comes from Beit Awa in southwest Hebron.

Abu-Thurai’a’s family confirmed that Ashraf died at the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem where he had remained for several weeks after his health deteriorated. The deterioration was due to a dangerous virus in the lungs which caused him to fall into a coma recently.

Meanwhile, Dr Abu Al-Sabah also pointed out that there are many prisoners suffering from serious and chronic illnesses; especially disabled patients and those suffering from cancer, heart and kidney disease, who live on painkillers and whose lives are currently at risk due to a lack of treatment.

According to several sources, nearly 1,200 out of the 4,600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails suffer from various illnesses and are victims of medical negligence. They include 20 prisoners permanently residing in the so-called Al-Ramla Hospital, 18 prisoners suffering from dangerous and malignant diseases such as heart disease, cancer, kidney failure, and 85 disabled prisoners who suffer from mobility, mental, and sensory disabilities.

Abu Al-Sabah demanded immediate action from all legal and international agencies, as well as the Red Cross, to pressure the Israeli occupation into providing the necessary treatment to the prisoners, and sending in specialists immediately.

On his part, Fuad Al-Khuffash, Director of the Al-Ahrar Center for Prisoner Studies and Human Rights, said that the death of Abu-Thurai’a occurred a year after the murder of Zuhair Labadah, who was released from an Israeli prison after battling disease and falling into a coma in Al- Ramla Prison Hospital.

Khuffash also said that the issue of ill prisoners and the deliberate negligence they are faced with has become an obvious fact that needs to be dealt with – not just condemned, reported and renounced.

According to Abdulnasser Farawneh, a researcher specializing in prisoner affairs, the policy of medical negligence has become like “a ghost haunting prisoners in occupation prisons, and poses a serious threat to ill and disabled prisoners due to the fact that prison administrations continue to target them and do not provide them with the necessary treatment, nor are they released.”

He also pointed out that this is not the first time the occupation has released a prisoner after their health has deteriorated to the point of hopelessness and their death become imminent so as to avoid being responsible for them dying inside their prisons.

Many ill prisoners have died shortly after being release as a result of medical negligence. This includes individuals like: Hayel Abu-Zaid and Sitan Al-Wali from the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights; Murad Abu-Sakoot and Fayez Ziyadat from Hebron; Zakariya Eissa Daud from Bethlehem; and Zuhair Labadah from Nablus.

In light of the growing number of deaths of prisoners after their release, the former prisoner and director of the Prisoners Research Centre, Rafat Hamdouna, has called for diligence on an international level in an effort to bring Israel to justice, expose its violations against prisoners and bring the recklessness with which it treats their lives to the attention of the world.