Knesset hears objections to delayed forced-feeding bill

Yesh Atid MK says legislation has long-term ramifications for society, Israeli democracy; calls for wording to be changed as vote gets delayed.

June 24, 2014 05:06
2 minute read.

Mourners chant slogans during the funeral of two Palestinians, who were shot dead during clahses on Thursday, in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 16, 2014.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Knesset Interior Committee reviewed objections to legislation allowing prisoners on hunger strike to be force-fed Monday, after Yesh Atid threatened to vote it down if the final vote on it is not delayed.

The vote was scheduled for Monday night, but was moved to next Monday following complaints from Yesh Atid MKs that not enough time was given to discuss the bill.

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Yesh Atid ministers voted for the bill in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, while it’s MKs had voted for the bill in its first reading two weeks ago.

“I submitted significant objections to the bill and I demand they be taken seriously,” MK Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid), who led the call in her party to delay the vote, said in Monday’s committee meeting. “This legislation has long-term ramifications for our society and for Israeli democracy, and now that the hasty vote is delayed, we can have a serious discussion with all relevant professional experts.”

Kariv said there should be a balance between valuing life and the prisoners’ right to protest.

She asked that the text of the bill be changed from allowing a prisoner in hunger strike to be fed to “prevent damage to the health of a prisoner” to allowing it only “to save the life of a prisoner.”

In addition, Kariv called for doctors to explain in detail what force-feeding entails, because that may convince prisoners to eat without being forced.

MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) asked to show a video clip to the committee, in which rapper Mos Def is shackled to a chair and force fed through his nose, to protest against the United States force-feeding prisoners in Guantanamo Bay detention center.

Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev would not allow the graphic video to be shown, but Tibi emailed it to MKs.

MK Merav Michaeli said this is a case of one problem leading to another because, “when a country is accustomed to administrative detentions, it will find itself violating basic human rights and passing laws that should not be proposed.”

“In most places that tried to force-feed prisoners, the prisoners won,” Michaeli said. “Doctors should be removed from this bill and replaced with prison guards. According to the medical code of ethics and international conventions, they should not have to do things that go against the meaning of their profession.”

Regev, however, said that she thinks the bill is proportionate.

“If a prisoner dies from a hunger struck, we all know what the opposition will do,” she said.

“This isn’t hasty legislation. I haven’t seen any other bills that were discussed until midnight for three days.”

Justice Ministry representative Naama Feutunger said that prisoners differ from regular citizens in that the government is wholly responsible for their well-being.

“In the past, we had to release prisoners who endangered citizens just to prevent damage caused by hunger strike,” she said.

The committee will continue discussing objections to the bill on Tuesday.

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