SAMER HILMI ABDULLATIF AL-BARQ
Date of birth: 13 December 1974
Place of residence: Jayyous-Qalqilya
Marital status: Married
Occupation: Science Teacher
Date of arrest: 11 July 2010
Place of detention: Ramleh prison medical clinic
Number of administrative detention orders: 7
Expected end of current detention order: 22 November 2012
On 29 August 2012, Samer Al-Barq entered his 100th day of renewed hunger strike. This follows his previous 30-day hunger strike, which began on 15 April 2012 and ended upon the conclusion of Palestinian prisoners’ mass hunger strike on 14 May.
In 1995 Samer travelled to Pakistan where he completed a master’s degree in medical analysis at Karachi University. Upon completion he began working as a science teacher at a Karachi school. However, in late 2002, concern mounted when his family was unable to contact him. Eventually they received a phone call from Samer, who had travelled to Jordan in 2003 and he informed his family that he had been detained in prison for eight by months by Jordanian intelligence. Samer was released after this initial period of eight months, but for only two days before being rearrested. At this time, Samer spent four and a half years in Jordanian prisons, three of which were spent in isolation. Samer was never tried or charged with any offense while in Jordanian custody.
Samer was eventually released in January 2008 and then settled in Jordan where he began working in a medical laboratory, while he wife joined him from Pakistan. During this time Jordanian intelligence continued to target Samer and subjected him to intensive interrogation which lasted for periods of a few days to a number of months. His last detention lasted from April 2010 to 11 July 2010.
On 11 July 2010 Samer was brought by Jordanian intelligence to Allenby Bridge, the border crossing between Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territory, where he was handed over to Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF). Samer was then taken to Ofer Prison, near Ramallah, where an Israeli military court issued him with an administrative detention order. As a result, Samer has been held for almost 800 days - without trial or charge – based on secret information.
ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION AND HUNGER STRIKE
Since Samer’s arrest on 11 July 2010, he has received 7 administrative detention orders. As with all other administrative detainees, Samer’s detention is based on secret information collected by Israeli authorities and available to the military judge but not to Samer or his lawyer. This practice violates international humanitarian law, which permits some limited use of administrative detention in emergency situations, but requires that the authorities follow basic rules for detention, including a fair hearing at which the detainee can challenge the reasons for his or her detention. These minimum rules of due process have been clearly violated in Samer’s case, leaving him without any legitimate means to defend himself.
The continued use of administrative detention against Samer forced him to launch a hunger strike two days before the Palestinian prisoner’s mass hunger strike, which began on 17 April 2012. During the mass hunger strike, about 2,000 prisoners demanded an end to the use of long-term isolation; an improvement in detention conditions; an end to the ban of family visits especially for prisoners from Gaza (who were banned from visits since June 2007); and an end to the policy of administrative detention. This mass hunger strike ended on 14 May when an agreement was reached between the hunger strikers’ committee and the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), with Egyptian mediation. According to members of the hunger strikers’ committee, the agreement included a provision that would limit the use of administrative detention to exceptional circumstances and that those held under administrative detention at the time of the agreement would not have their orders renewed.
Nevertheless, even immediately following the end of the hunger strike, new administrative detention orders were issued and many administrative detention orders were renewed, including for Samer. Just one week after the end of the hunger strike, Samer received a new administrative detention order for a period of three months. Following the failure of the IPS to fulfil its obligations under the agreement by renewing Samer’s administrative detention order, on 21 May 2012 Samer resumed his hunger strike.
On his 9th day of renewed hunger strike, Samer was transferred from Ofer prison to Ramleh prison clinic as a result of his deteriorating health, where he currently remains. Independent doctors from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) have largely been denied access to Samer and the other hunger strikers. On his 59th day of hunger strike, a PHR-I lawyer visited Samer and Samer reported that his health had severely deteriorated. He noted that three weeks prior, his heart rate had dropped to 35 beats per minute, which is an alarming and life-threatening state.
He was then transferred to Assaf Harofeh Hospital for one night, during which he was shackled by three limbs to the hospital bed. Samer also reported that the IPS had been threatening him with force-treatment or force-feeding if he did not break his hunger strike. At the time, he was suffering from vertigo, drastic weight loss and involuntary shivering and coldness in his legs, symptoms that may indicate peripheral nerve damage. Samer also suffers from both kidney problems and a previous injury to his leg, both of which need constant medical attention. As a result of both hunger strikes there has been a critical drop in his blood sugar levels and he also has high blood pressure.
Samer and fellow hunger striker Hassan Safadi have also been subjected to severe mistreatment by the IPS. On 5 August, Samer reported to Addameer lawyer Fares Ziad that he was transferred from Ramleh to Ofer military court on 31 July by IPS special forces, or Nahshon, known for their particularly brutal treatment of prisoners during transfers. During this transfer, the special forces ordered him to walk, and when he told them that he could not, they beat him on his legs. They eventually brought him a wheelchair but did not help him, so he was forced to crawl to the chair and wheel it himself.
Samer and Hassan were also put together in an isolation cell in Ramleh, which is only about 1.5 by 1.8 meters in size, with no windows or ventilation. Furthermore, there is no space in the room for the wheelchair that is being used by both hunger strikers for everyday activities, including the use of shower and toilet. After Hassan protested these conditions and treatment, he and Samer were both beaten. In a visit by a PHR-IL doctor on 2 August, the doctor reported that Samer’s health would only continue to deteriorate.
An even more violent attack was made against the two hunger strikers on 13 August. At approximately 9:00 am, IPS guards entered the isolation room that the two hunger strikers share and announced their intentions to move them to a room with other prisoners in the medical clinic who are not on hunger strike. Samer and Hassan refused the transfer, as they considered it an attempt to further pressure them to break their hunger strikes by surrounding them with individuals who would be regularly eating in front of them.
After refusing to be moved, the Israeli prison guards attacked both Samer and Hassan. During the attack, Hassan’s head was slammed against the iron door of the cell two times, causing him to fall to the ground, unconscious. Prison guards then dragged him through the hall to be seen by all the other prisoners. Later that night, at around 10:00 pm, Samer and Hassan were taken to a new isolation room with no mattresses. In a visit with an Addameer lawyer on 27 August, fellow hunger striker Ayman Sharawna reported that he was also being held in the isolation cell with Hassan and Samer.
Despite his deteriorating medical condition, Samer’s administrative order was once again renewed for another three months on 22 August. He was taken again to Assah Harofeh hospital on 27 August. As of August 29, Samer entered his 100th day of renewed hunger strike, following his previous strike of 30 days, making him only the second Palestinian prisoner in history to reach this stage of hunger strike.
Samer’s wife, Sajida, is originally from Pakistan. She returned to Pakistan after Samer’s detention by Israeli forces. She has not been allowed to visit him since his arrest in July 2010 under the pretext that the IOF do not allow the entry of foreigners who hold a citizenship of countries that do not recognize Israel. Samer is longing to see his wife and family and is looking forward to granting his mothers wish to go on the Hajj together. Samer’s family support his hunger strike unconditionally and call on the international community to work for the release of Samer and all Palestinian prisoners who remain in Israeli jails. They are dismayed by the lack of access to him, including denial of doctor and lawyer visits, and are deeply saddened by the low attention towards his very urgent condition in both local and international spheres.