Palestinians celebrate as Israel capitulates to hunger strikers’ key demands

By The Morning Star

Palestinians celebrated today after the Israeli government caved in to imprisoned hunger strikers’ key demands.

The Palestinians won key concessions on Tel Aviv’s notorious “administrative detention” policy and family visits in a deal mediated by Egyptian officials.

Israel agreed to allow some 400 prisoners from Gaza to receive family visits for the first time since 2006 and about 20 prisoners were released from solitary confinement, including one militant who had endured solitary since 2003.

Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe said the 300 Palestinian detainees currently held without charge under administrative detention would have their files reviewed after six months.

The detentions could only be extended if Israel presents concrete evidence against them to a military court.

Two men began the strike in February, refusing food for 77 days, becoming the longest ever Palestinian hunger strikers.

Around 2,000 other Palestinian prisoners, more than a third of the prison population, joined the strike in April, going without food for a month.

They remain under medical supervision to ensure there will be no complications when they begin to eat again.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said the prisoners pledged to stop helping to plan and conduct attacks from inside Israeli jails.

It also said the militant group’s commanders outside the jails made a commitment “to prevent terror activity” and warned that violence or resumed prisoner strikes would “annul the Israeli commitment.”

In the occupied West Bank and Israel, Palestinians cried for joy upon hearing news of the deal.

Thousands of people celebrated in Gaza by waving the Palestinian tricolour and distributing sweets.

From The Morning Star:

Algonquins of Barriere Lake continue protest against imposed council

By Gale Courey Toensing / Indian Country Today

While Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was holding his first Crown-First Nations summit with indigenous leaders at the Old Ottawa City Hall last month, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake gathered outside to rally against what members say is an unwanted and illegitimate council imposed on their community by the Canada government.

The Algonquins of Barriere Lake (ABL) have been protesting the imposed council since August, 2010 when the Canadian government’s Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), the ministry that oversees indigenous issues, announced that a new chief and council had been elected by “acclamation” according to Section 74 of Canada’s colonial-era Indian Act of 1876. (To put the Indian Act in historical context, Canada became the Dominion of Canada in 1867 as part of the British Empire during Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837–1901. A year after the Indian Act was passed, Queen Victoria became the Empress of India.)

An unknown number of ABL members traveled approximately three hours from their rural community in Quebec to Ottawa on January 24 for the protest.

“We’re here to show that our community is still united in asking the government to retract the imposition of Section 74 on our community,” ABL spokesperson Michel Thusky told the Leveller. “We want the federal government to rescind its decision on imposing Section 74 on our customary selection process.”

Section 74 says that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development can impose an electoral system on First Nations with customary leadership selection processes: “Whenever he deems it advisable for the good government of a band, the minister may declare by order that after a day to be named therein the council of the band, consisting of a chief and councilors, shall be selected by elections to be held in accordance with this Act.”

The ABL are among just two dozen First Nation bands that follow a customary leadership selection process. Members say that their inherent right to do so is protected not only by Canada’s Constitution, but also by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. They attribute the strength of their community, language, knowledge and protection of the land to the endurance of their customary governance system and say losing it will have devastating consequences on their way of life.

The federal government-run “election” in 2010 yielded fewer than a dozen ballots, but it announced nonetheless that a new chief and council were elected. A overwhelming majority of the community members had boycotted the so-called election. Of Barriere Lake’s total population of about 500 people, including children, nearly 200 members signed a resolution rejecting the entire process, even Casey Ratt, the “acclaimed” chief declined to accept the position. The ABL have protested and held demonstrations calling for their traditional governance and treaty rights for the past two years, but the imposed council remains in place.

“We have been campaigning against this, reminding people that our custom is who we are, our identity, our language, our way of life. We don’t accept to be in this system of colonization,” community spokesperson Norman Matchewan told the Leveller.

The community also continues to protest the federal and provincial Quebec governments’ violation of the 1991 Trilateral Agreement, a resource-use accord that was supposed to create a sustainable development plan for the community’s traditional approximately 4,000 square miles that would include revenue sharing, resource co-management and economic independence for Barriere Lake.

The agreement was highly acclaimed as an innovative environmental treaty at the time of its signing, but ABL members say that federal and provincial governments have refused to implement the plan.

Tony Wawatie, a former ABL spokesman, told ICTMN that the Crown-First Nations summit was “a big scam” to distract attention from the crisis at Attawapiskat.

“But we’re still stuck with the Harper government for another three years and it’s for sure they’re doing everything they can to undermine the collective rights of First Nations peoples across Canada,” Wawatie said. “Their agenda is about assimilation and extinction of our rights. It’s sad that it’s happening all over and they’re trying to have a public campaign by bringing in a process for economic development but undermining people who want to protect their Indian-ness, if you will, their identity. That’s what I see happening.”

From Indian Country Today:

Palestinian prisoner protesting detention without charge released after 66 day hunger strike


Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan has ended his 66-day hunger strike, the longest carried out by any Palestinian prisoner, after Israel agreed to set him free on April 17.

Mr Adnan has refused food since December 18, one day after he was detained without charge. He had lost more than 40 per cent of his body weight over the past nine weeks.

Mr Adnan’s wife, Randa Mussa hailed the deal as a “victory” for her husband. “He forced the occupation to give in to his demands and I hope he returns safe to us,” she said.

“The Israeli court decided to release Khader Adnan on April 17 and based on that he ended his hunger strike,” Palestinian prisoner affairs minister Issa Qaraqaa said.

Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the agreement meant “if there’s no new evidence against him, he will be released from custody on April 17.”

Mr Adnan, 33, was detained on December 17 and began refusing food a day later to protest his detention without charge and his alleged mistreatment by interrogators.

His protest, already the longest hunger strike carried out by any Palestinian prisoner, has attracted international attention and thrown a spotlight on Israel’s use of administrative detention, a military procedure which allows suspects to be held without charge.

Israeli officials described Mr Adnan as a “terrorist” from the radical Islamic Jihad movement, although he has never been charged with any offence, nor has any evidence against him been made public.

In January, a military court handed down a four-month administrative detention order against Mr Adnan, which he appealed in an unusual court session earlier this month held at his hospital bed in northern Israel.

But a military court last week rejected his appeal, prompting him to turn to Israel’s top court.

Doctors from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel who met with Mr Adnan in recent days had warned that his health was failing and that he faced “immediate danger of death” if he continued to refuse food.

Rights groups have also condemned the conditions in which Mr Adnan is being held at Ziv hospital in the northern town of Safed, where he is shackled to the bed by chains on both legs and on one arm.

His case has sparked demonstrations across the Palestinian territories, with thousands of people taking part in protests on Tuesday in the West Bank cities of Nablus, Jenin, Hebron and Ramallah. A protest was also scheduled in Gaza City.

In Ramallah, shops shut down as part of a general strike in solidarity with Mr Adnan, and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails were also on hunger strike in support of the detainee.

Palestinian officials had warned that Mr Adnan’s death in custody could spark a violent backlash, and a spokeswoman for the Israel Prisons Service said they were aware of the “implications” of such a development.

On Monday, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said he had sent a message to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and other top diplomats urging them to put pressure on Israel over the case.

“I asked them all to intervene in Adnan’s case. They must apply pressure on Israel to release him,” he said.

From The Telegraph: