Minister seeks to advance ‘force-feeding’ bill for prisoners

After controversial legislation fails to pass in last Knesset, Gilad Erdan vows renewed effort to thwart hunger strikers

Gilad Erdan, May 18, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Gilad Erdan, May 18, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Thursday vowed to work to pass a controversial bill that would allow Israel to force-feed hunger-striking prisoners.

Prisoners in Israel, specifically those incarcerated for national security violations, in the past have gone on hunger strikes in a bid to change or improve their conditions.

In the last Knesset, the proposed force-feeding bill passed a first reading in January but did not progress to the required second and third readings.

According to the Channel 2 report, Erdan asked the Knesset secretariat to bring the bill to a second and third reading. The procedure was pending approval by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked signaled that she would try to get the committee to approve the bill for a vote, according to the report.

The Israel Prison Service said that four prisoners are currently refusing to eat, and warned of an extensive hunger strike after the month-long Ramadan holiday, which begins June 18. The Israel Prison Service said it does not have the resources to handle large numbers of hunger-striking prisoners.

Hunger-striker Ayman Sharawneh shortly after his release from Israeli prison in March 2013 (screen capture: Youtube/RuptlyTV)
Hunger-striker Ayman Sharawneh shortly after his release from Israeli prison in March 2013 (screen capture: YouTube/RuptlyTV)

According to the revised draft of the bill, a procedure to force-feed a prisoner would require approval from a district court presiding judge or their deputy, and the prisoner in question would have the right to legal counsel to defend their decision.

“I will promote the bill and not let [prisoners] harm the security of the state or succumb to any threats. This is also a humane issue. Just as I expect a prison guard who sees a prisoner trying to hurt himself to prevent it — we must also prevent a risk of death by hunger-striking,” Erdan said, according to Channel 2.

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