Monday, March 01, 2021

Death of Palestinian prisoner sparks outrage over medical negligence in Israeli jails

By K. Künzl - December 13, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [prisoners]

On November 26 Sami Abu Diak, a Palestinian prisoner, died in the solace of an empty Israeli hospital room after a battle with cancer.

Following the announcement of Diak’s death officials were accused of medical negligence. Diak was arrested during the second intifada and imprisoned for 17 years.  

During “a day of rage” in which demonstrators were called to the streets to protest the US changing stance towards settlements in the West Bank, Palestinians also sought the opportunity to call for the release of Diak before the announcement of his death.

Diak was just 36 years old when he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and after his health rapidly deteriorated two weeks before his death. He was “refused compassionate leave to be with his family” WAFA reported.  

During his final days, Diak has just one wish, a letter he wrote from prison circulated widely on social media stating, “I want to die in my mother’s arms. I don’t want to leave life with my hands and legs handcuffed in front of jailers who love death and delight in our pain and suffering”. 

Palestinian officials called for Israel to take accountability for Diak’s death, "subjected to the deliberate medical negligence practised by (Israeli) occupation authorities towards all prisoners" the Palestinian presidency stated.

The Israel prison authority stated that a “seriously ill unnamed 'security prisoner’ died after being transferred to an Israeli hospital”. Diak had been charged with the murder of three people.

According to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners rights group, Diak first complained of abdominal pain in 2015 to which he was administered pain-killers. He was then transferred to Israeli Soroka hospital after losing consciousness two weeks later.

After undergoing surgery to extract part of his intestine, doctors determined that Diak had cancer. For a month following, Diak underwent several other procedures that rendered him unconscious and on anaesthetics.

Requests by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Diak’s family to release him during his final days were denied by Israeli officials. The PA also pleaded to the Red Cross and other European countries to apply pressure. 

The Palestinian Prisoners Club said Diak was the “fifth Palestinian to die in Israeli custody in 2019, and the 222nd since 1967”. 

Additionally, a 2016 Addameer report revealed that during 2014, “the number of ill persons among the prisoners and detainees increased to over 1000, an increase compared with 800 sick cases in 2013”.

Addameer attributes the growing number of sick and dying prisoners in the Israeli system to four sources of medical negligence; depriving prisoners of periodic medical checkups and appropriate healthcare, overcrowded and inhumane prison conditions not in line with international standards, and neglect of “responsibility towards the needs of personal and public hygiene”.

According to Addameer psychological pressure can also hinder the health of a prisoner as they are often subject to harassment and physical assault.

International law stipulates that “Prisoners should enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the community, and should have access to necessary health-care services free of charge without discrimination on the grounds of their legal status," -Rule 24 of Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners in May 2015 (Mandela Rules).

Suffering renal and pulmonary failure, Diak made an impassioned last plea to Israeli officials to grant him one request, a wish that went unfulfilled.

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