Week 4 of Palestinian Prisoners’ Hunger Strike

By: Yamillet Brizuela
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RAMALLAH, West Bank – May 14, 2017 marked the 28th day of the mass hunger strike by approximately 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons to protest their administrative detention. This hunger strike started on April 17, 2017, with hopes of drawing international attention to the plight of prisoners. They aim to put pressure on Israeli authorities to spur a change in policy.

About 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons are on their 4th week of a hunger strike. Photo Courtesy of Reuters.

The prisoners’ demands involve improvements to prison living condition which they believe, currently, violate basic human rights. They also denounced the torture, ill-treatment, and medical negligence of them by Israeli authorities. The Palestinian prisoners further denounced Israel’s practice of administrative detention, which allows for internment without trial or charge for six-month intervals that can be renewed indefinitely.

Other demands include: more family visits, education options, and public telephones, and are protesting unfair trials, detention of children, medical negligence, and solitary confinement.

Having lived off only salt water and now entering the 4th week of the hunger strike, a conversation of force-feeding the prisoners has arisen. Force-feeding violates international human rights standards.

Under international human rights law, prisoners must be guaranteed basic human rights, which include the right to maintain a family life and freedom from torture and other forms of CIDT, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture has called on Israel to ensure that prisoners on hunger strikes are not subjected to force-feeding or other medical treatment against their will, as it could amount to torture.

However, without negotiations with prisoners by the Israeli authorities, it is highly likely that prisoners would suffer permanent health damage and possible death.

For more information, please see:

Aljazeera – A Timeline of Palestinian Mass Hunger Strikes in Israel – 12 May 2017

Aljazeera – Palestinian Shot Dead by Israeli Forces in Nabi Saleh – 12 May 2017

Aljazeera – Palestinian Hunger Strike Highlights Medical Neglect – 12 May 2017

Daily Times – Palestinian Hunger Strikes- 13 May 2017

Ma’an News Agency – Palestinian Prisoners Enter 27th Day of Mass Hunger Strike – 13 May 2017

Ma’an News Agency – Funeral Held for Palestinian Killed by Israeli Forces During Solidarity March- 12 May 2017

Palestine News Network- Israeli Doctors Reject Force-Feeding Prisoners on Hunger Strike – 10 May 2017

Heinous Killing of Battered Wife Sparks Protest

By Mark McMurray
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RAMALLAH, West Bank — On Monday, scores of people witnessed a woman having her throat slashed in an open-air Bethlehem market in broad daylight.  The prime suspect, the woman’s husband, was arrested at the scene.

Protesters demonstrate in the area where Nancy Zaboun had her throat cut.  (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Nancy Zaboun, a 27-year-old mother of three, had recently sought a divorce from her abusive husband.  According to the Ma’an News Agency, the police reported that her husband had beaten her Sunday evening.  When the police arrived at the scene that night, they only asked him to sign a pledge not to beat his wife again.  The next day, she was fatally wounded on a path at a market situated near the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ.  She was walking on the path after having just attended a hearing in her divorce case from her husband of ten years.

Khaula al-Azraq, director of a counseling center in the West Bank where Zaboun went for assistance, said Shadi Abedallah, Zaboun’s 32-year-old husband, beat his wife regularly.  The beatings were so severe at times that Zaboun would have to be hospitalized after the attacks.  Despite having repeatedly assaulted his wife, Abedallah was never arrested.  Similar to their response to Sunday’s beating, the police would only make Abedallah, himself a former police officer, sign promises not to hit his wife in the future.  That makes the response to his behavior even more suspicious.

Almost immediately after their wedding, Abdellah began beating Zaboun.  Local authorities reportedly stepped in at some point to resolve the violence, only to later rule the situation a family dispute.  Abdel Fattah Hemayel, the district governor of Bethlehem, confirmed the description of the situation by police and the pledges they had Abdellah sign.

The heinous nature of the attack has caused a strong reaction within Palestinian society.  On Wednesday, several dozen women and women’s rights activists held a rally in the area where Zaboun was killed.  They called for stronger laws to end violence against women.  While holding signs stating things such as “Shame Palestinians for killing our women,” the demonstrators chanted, “No to violence against women.”

Rabiha Diab, the Palestinian government’s women’s affairs minister, has also called for justice.  “We should set an example because…he slaughtered her like a sheep,” she said.  Diab has called on the police to look at what they can do to end violence against women.  “Every once in a while, there is a case that makes us feel worried and afraid that we are going back to square one [as women],” she added.

For further information, please see:

Arutz Sheva – Arab Protest in Bethlehem Slams Violence Against Women – 2 August 2012

LA Times – Palestinian Women’s Killings Spark Outcry Over Lax Laws – 2 August 2012

Al Jazeera – Palestinians Protest Murder of Battered Wife – 1 August 2012

Ma’an News Agency – Protesters Call For Stricter Laws After Woman Stabbed to Death – 1 August 2012

Four Sentenced to Death for Involvement in Iran Bank Fraud Scandal

By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran — Four people have been sentenced to death by an Iranian court for their involvement in the largest ever bank fraud scandal in the country’s history.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied any government involvement in the scandal. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

Two other defendants received life sentences, while 33 more will spend up to 25 years in jail, the chief prosecutor was quoted as saying.

“According to the sentence that was issued, four of the defendants in this case were sentenced to death,” Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei told IRNA, the country’s state-run news agency.

In addition to jail time, some were sentenced to flogging, ordered to pay fines, and banned from holding government jobs.

The case became public in September 2011, when an investment firm was accused of forging documents to obtain credit from at least seven Iranian banks over a four-year period.  It reportedly involved forged documents used to secure a $2.6 billion loan.  The money was reportedly used to buy government-owned companies under the government’s privatization scheme.

Allegations included that the embezzlement was carried out by people close to the political elite or with their assent.  The story’s breaking fueled weeks of political conflict between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denied his government’s involvement last year, and Iran’s ruling hierarchy of clerics.  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, while criticizing financial corruption and acknowledging the political damage, said in televised comments last year that the media should not “drag out the issue.”

“Some want to use this event to score points against the country’s officials,” Khamenei said.  “The people should know the issue will be followed up on.”

Businessman Amir Mansoor Khosravi, who the Iranian media has described as the mastermind behind the scheme, is said to have forged letters of credit from Iran’s Bank Saderat to fund dozens of companies and buy a state-owned steel factory.  Mahmoud Reza Khavari, the former head of Iran’s largest bank–the state-owned Bank Melli–resigned because of the scandal.  He then fled to Canada, where records indicate that he owns a $3 million home.

Mohseni-Ejei did not name the defendants on trial, and the Iranian media only identified them by their initials.  State television broadcast parts of the trial, but blurred out the faces of the accused.  He believes the case demonstrates that Iran can appropriately deal with high level fraud.

“The government, parliament, and all available devices were used to pursue the issue so that corruption can be fought in an open manner,” he said.

Despite the Prosecutor General’s claim, one defendant believes that while the judiciary vigorously pursued some low-level players, senior officials involved in the scheme had gone unpunished.  “Many other banking officials are outside of prison right now,” an unnamed steel company official asserted.  “Why are you able to put us on trial and have nothing to do with them?”

For further information, please see:

Al Arabiya — Four Sentenced to Death for Iran’s Biggest Bank Fraud — 30 July 2012

Al Jazeera — Death Terms in Iran Bank Scandal — 30 July 2012

BBC News — Four Sentenced to Death over $2.6bn Iran Bank Fraud — 30 July 2012

The Guardian — Iran Sentences Four to Death Over Bank Fraud With Political Fallout — 30 July 2012

Reuters — Iran Sentences Four People to Death for Bank Fraud — 30 July 2012