Israel's Supreme Court ruled Sunday that an Israeli law allowing the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike is constitutional after rejecting an appeal from the Israel Medical Association.
"This law is legal under Israeli law and international law," the judges said, according to the French news agency AFP. "Saving a life must remain the priority and the state is responsible for the lives of its prisoners," the judges added.
The controversial law was passed by the Israeli parliament in July 2015, with the government arguing it was for the wellbeing of prisoners. Most of those who go on hunger strike in Israeli prisons are Palestinians who are being detained indefinitely without charges or trial under a so-called “administrative detention” policy.
Last year the local medical association slammed the law as “torture” and filed a lawsuit against it in the top court. But the judges disagreed, commenting, "The state is responsible for the safety of prisoners but also of its citizens whose safety may be endangered because of events such as a hunger strike by prisoners."
In 2015, the United Nations also said that the state should not feed prisoners against their will and called hunger-striking "a non-violent form of protest used by individuals who have exhausted other forms of protest to highlight the seriousness of their situations."
Other countries that allow force-feeding include Australia, Germany and Israel’s biggest ally, the United States, which used the practice regularly on prisoners in Guantanamo on the island of Cuba.
And while the European Court for Human Rights said in various cases that the practice could amount to torture, it has stopped short of banning it in the European Union.
The force-feeding law, passed last year in Israel, was a slap in the face to the international community after the country faced an outcry over Khader Adnan, a Palestinian activist who went on a hunger strike for 56 days in June 2015 against his administrative detention which lasted months without trial.
At the time, Israeli officials said the force-feeding law would help Israel avoid “international embarrassment” in a case when those on hunger strike die due to their protest of the Israeli illegal detention.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s ruling comes as three Palestinian prisoners detained without charge by Israel have continued their hunger strikes for more than 60 days, Palestine’s Ma’an agency reported, despite their medical condition having seriously deteriorated.
Israel’s administrative detention law allows authorities to imprison suspects for renewable six-month periods without trial or charge while investigators “gather evidence."
There are currently around 7,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, of whom some 700 are under administrative detention.