UN 'concerned' about Palestinian detainees, hunger-strikers

A United Nations official on Wednesday expressed concern about the wellbeing of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons and in particular about the condition of hunger striker Samer Issawi.

A UN statement said that Humanitarian Coordinator James W. Rawley met in the West bank city of Ramallah with Palestinian prisoner affairs minister Issa Qaraqe, where Rawley "expressed the United Nations' continued concern about Palestinian detainees in Israeli custody."

"They discussed the situation of four Palestinian detainees currently on hunger strike and, in particular, the critical health condition of one Palestinian detainee, Samer Issawi, who has been on hunger strike for more than 200 days," it said.

Palestinian prisoner support group Adameer says six prisoners held by Israel are currently on hunger strike.

The longest serving are Issawi and Ayman Sharawneh who have been fasting for months to demand their release from imprisonment without trial.

Under what Israel calls "administrative detention," suspects can be imprisoned without trial by order of a military court.

The order can be renewed indefinitely for six months at a time.

Rawley called for an end to the practise.

"The Humanitarian Coordinator reiterated the position of the United Nations Secretary-General, namely that those detained should be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees in accordance with international standards, or released without delay," the statement said.

Last year, between 1,600 and 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israel took part in a collective hunger strike which ended with an agreement with prison administrators on May 14.

One of their main demands was the release of administrative detainees.