Hunger strikes and the purpose of ICRC visits

Visiting Palestinian detainees in Israeli detention facilities is a key part of our work, including follow-up of detainees who turn to hunger strikes to protest their detention or conditions of detention.

 With the spread of COVID-19, visiting detention facilities has become more challenging. Places of detention are not immune against disease; the virus can enter or leave through family visits, detention personnel and/ or new detainees. This is an additional source of anxiety for families and detainees, especially those entering hunger strikes.

What can ICRC do?

Hunger strikes are a form of protest. We respect any detainee's decision to start a hunger strike. We monitor the situation of hunger-strikers to ensure that they are treated with respect, have access to adequate medical care if needed and are allowed to maintain contact with their families.

Keeping in mind the safety of vulnerable detainees, such as hunger-strikers with depressed immune system, during the outbreak of COVID19, the ICRC is conducting individual follow-up visits at hospitals where the detainees are taken care of, and with strictly necessary personnel, to avoid exposing the detainees to any further potential health risk.

In accordance with the principles of medical confidentiality, we do not provide updates on a striker's medical condition publicly even if we were to receive recurrent requests from the public. We do, however, update the detainees' relatives on their conditions in accordance with their wishes.

What ICRC doesn’t do?

As a neutral humanitarian intermediary, we will never advocate for the end of a hunger strike, or for the concerned authorities to agree with the striker's demands. We neither support it nor condemn it.

We encourage the detainees on hunger strike, their legal representatives and the relevant authorities to prioritize dialogue and reach solutions that evade irreversible consequences to the detainees' health.

More about the ICRC's role during a hunger strike: