EU calls on Israel to respect rights of hunger strikers

EU calls on Israel to respect rights of hunger strikers

BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
EU calls on Israel to respect rights of hunger strikers

Arab Israelis demonstrate outside the Ramle prison in central Israel on February 4, 2013 in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. AFP photo

The EU on Saturday called on Israel to respect its human rights obligations toward Palestinian prisoners, saying it was concerned about the deteriorating condition of four detainees who have been on a long-term hunger strike.

The European Union is "following with concern" the worsening health conditions of Samer Assawi, Jaafar Ezzedine, Ayman Sharawneh and Tareq Qaadan, who are all staging long-term hunger strikes, the bloc's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

"The EU calls on the government of Israel to allow for the immediate restoration of their family visiting rights and calls for the full respect of international human rights obligations towards all Palestinian detainees and prisoners," she said.

Her comments came a day after clashes erupted in the occupied West Bank as thousands of Palestinian demonstrators staged a protest in support of the four.

On Friday, International Quartet representative Tony Blair expressed "concern" over the "deteriorating health condition of the four prisoners, one of whom has been on a hunger strike for over 200 days." "Israel must respect the human rights of all prisoners and provide them with all necessary medical assistance and legal recourse to due process according to international standards," Blair said in a statement.

Speaking at a solidarity tent near the International Committee of the Red Cross offices in El-Bireh, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas promised that "our brave prisoners will top the agenda" in his meetings with US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, expected in the region soon.

According to Israeli rights watchdog B'Tselem, at the end of 2012 more than 4,500 Palestinian detainees and prisoners were held in Israeli jails.