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Cold comfort in Palestinian hunger-striker Hana Shalabi’s release

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Hannah Boast
WVoN co-editor

Palestinian hunger-striker Hana Shalabi arrived in Gaza on Sunday after her release from Israeli detention last week.

As part of a deal with the Israeli authorities she will be exiled in the Gaza Strip for three years, away from her West Bank home.

Shalabi had been on hunger strike for 43 days since being captured in February by Israeli forces in the West Bank.  She ended her strike last Thursday.

WVoN previously reported on the humilating forced strip searches she experienced during her imprisonment.

Shalabi began her strike in protest against Israel’s policy of holding Palestinians it considers to be a security threat in what it calls ‘administrative detention’.

Prisoners can be held indefinitely in this legal limbo without being charged.

Shalabi had been held in administrative detention for two years previously and was released in October 2011 in the prisoner swap that also saw Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit gain his freedom.

She is allegedly involved with Islamic Jihad but has never been charged with an offence.

Shalabi’s protest followed the recent hunger strike of Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, who was also being held in administrative detention.

Adnan’s strike lasted for 66 days until he struck a deal with the Israeli security forces that will see him released later this month.

Israel’s practice of imprisoning Palestinians without charge or trial has been condemned by human rights groups, including Amnesty.

More than 300 Palestinians, including 20 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, are currently being held by Israel under administrative detention.

AmnestyPhysicians for Human Rights-Israel, and the Palestinian prisoners’ advocacy group Addameer have expressed concern about the conditions of Shalabi’s release which they suggest amount to a forcible deportation, in breach of the Geneva Convention on human rights.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that an Occupying Power is forbidden from transferring citizens of an occupied territory to the territory of another country.

Although the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are recognised under international law as a single territorial unit, Palestinians are barred by the Israeli authorities from moving between the two areas.

This means that Shalabi will be unable to return to her West Bank home or to visit her family for the period of her three-year exile. Neither will they be able to visit her.

It is, in effect, a forcible deportation, which continues to punish Shalabi and her family for crimes of which she has neither been charged nor convicted.

Ann Harrison, Amnesty International Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the deal made by Shalabi with the authorities.

“The fact that Hana Shalabi was denied access to her independent lawyers raises serious concerns about her deportation to the Gaza Strip,” she said.

Harrison added that the deal struck by Shalabi with the authorities may set a harmful precedent in future negotiations over prisoners’ rights.

“There is a real risk that Hana Shalabi’s deportation could mean that other administrative detainees may be pressured to agree to similar deals and be coerced into agreeing to be deported to the Gaza Strip,” she said.

As Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, points out, “To call this release ‘freedom’ is to make a mockery of the word, even to call it ‘release’ is misleading.”

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