PHR Israel wishes to alert a continuation of Israel’s policy of arresting patients and those who escort them, using their need to enter Israel for medical treatment. It is important to mention that the long occupation and closure and the economic situation significantly contributed to the under development of the health system in Gaza causing it to be highly dependent on referrals to Israel or via Israel to the West Bank and East Jerusalem medical centers. This makes patients from Gaza an extremely vulnerable group.
PHR Israel had recently learnt on 3 cases were medical needs were used to detain people:
Rawhy Fouad Qarqaz: 42 yr. old (Married + 3 children). Suffers from severe knee pains and diagnosed with a meniscus derangements. On May 31, 2012 he was referred to MakassedHopital in East Jerusalem for orthopedic management. On June 18 PHR receives his file and sends a request (June 24) to allow his exist from Gaza for treatment. Following different correspondence PHR Israel receives a letter from the Israel DCO stating that “the authorized bodies decided to summon Mr. RawhyQarqaz to a "security interview", that will take place in Erez Crossing, on July 15th at 08:00”. PHR Israel passed this response to Mr. Qarqaz, emphasizing that this is not an easy thing and he should think whether he wishes to take this interview or not. To our deep dismay, the interview was used to arrest him.
Ahmad Chala: 25yr. old: A brother to Bila’l Chala, 8 yr. old. Bilal underwent a bone marrow transplant and suffered from complications that necessitating a prolonged hospitalization Schneider Children Medical Center. Ahmad asked for a permit to replace his mother who needed to come back to Gaza, and stay by his brother’s side. Being told he was granted a permit, Ahmad reached Erez Crossing on July 2nd only to be arrested on the spot. Ahmad and Bilal’s father. whose permit requests were denied twice is now afraid to apply again though he wishes to replace his wife after she went a breakdown following her son's arrest.
Wa’il Kamil Muhammad Al-Taweel: 40 yr. old. According to field information collected by Al Mezan, (the following is taken from Al Mezan's update) he was arrested at Bayt Hanoun crossing after he left his house heading for the crossing at around 8:00 a.m. on Sunday to attend an “interview”with the Israeli intelligence apparatus, with the aim of obtaining medical treatment abroad. According to Al Mezan, he received a referral on 6 June 2012, and obtained an appointment for 5 July 2012 at Al Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem. The Office of Health Coordination, which is responsible for arranging Gazan patients’ passage through BaytHanoun crossing, notified him on July 5th that he needs to go to the crossing for an interview with Israeli intelligence. He went at roughly 8:00 am and returned home exhausted around 6:30 pm. He told his wife that he had been subjected to a full search and interrogation at the crossing, during which he was struck in the face, had his hair pulled, and was held in an underground cell. At-Taweel stayed in his home Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, then on Sunday morning (8 July 2012) received a phone call from the Office of Health Coordination telling him to attend another interview with Israeli intelligence. He left his home for the crossing and did not return, according to his family. At around 10:00 pm they received a phone call informing them that the patient had been detained in Ashkelon prison. Al-Taweel is prohibited an attorney visit and thus it is unknown what methods are used in his interrogaton and how it effects his already vulnerable medical condition. Past experience shows that those sometimes amount to cruel and inhuman treatment.
Conclusion: For several years PHR Israel witnessed the abuse of Palestinian Patients by the Israel Security Agency (Shabac): they are told that a permit is waiting for them at Erez Crossing, or are invited for an “interview” on which they are told their permit depends. Once they reach the crossing they are arrested or harshly interrogated (see: Holding Health to Ransom: GSS Interrogation and Extortion of Palestinian Patients at Erez Crossing 2008 and Adalah, Al Mezan and PHR-I press release 2011).
Following PHR Israel’s correspondence, we were notified by the Prime Ministers’ office that Israel saves for itself the right to arrest individuals who ask to enter Israel for medical reasons following intelligence information that indicates they pose a security risk.
While PHR Israel does not doubts Israel’s right to conduct a security examination for those wishing to enter or pass through its territory, It does view the policy described as exploiting desperate medical needs to manipulate and mislead individuals into arrests.
This policy amounts to conditioning access to healthcare on one's willingness to come to the interview, a procedure now feared by many – as they hear of the arrests that followed such “invitations”. This policy also harms the trust of the patients in human rights organizations who – in the process of advocating for their permits – are notified by the authorities of the interview, and in their turn notify the patient.
PHR Israel therefore demands:
Requests for permits for medical treatment will not be used for arrests or illegal interrogations (that use threats, extortions or cruel inhuman, and degrading treatment). Israel has other methods to arrests individuals if it so wishes.
Patients now in detention will be immediately allowed to see a physician they trust. Their medical need is obvious as all medical reports were handed to authorities with their request for a permit.
Please share your concern with the Israeli authorities at this harmful policy
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Physicians for Human Rights Israel
Physicians for Human Rights Israel