World Medical Association Reiterates its Policies on Hunger Strikes

Against the background of hunger strikes in several parts of the world, including Israel and Bahrain, the WMA today reiterated its policies on hunger strikes as set out in its Declaration of Tokyo and its Declaration of Malta. It again stressed the unacceptability of forced feeding.

In the case of the Palestinian hunger strikers in Israel it echoed the request of the Israel Medical Association for the hunger strikers to have access to care outside the prison system when necessary. In Israel Palestinian detainees have been on mass hunger strike since April 17, demanding a resumption of family visits from Gaza and calling for an end to solitary confinement.

Dr. Mukesh Haikerwal, Chair of the WMA, said:

‘The WMA’s position on hunger strikes is quite clear. The Declaration of Tokyo states that “where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially.” And the Declaration of Malta declares that forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable and that coercion is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment.’

The Israel Medical Association has stated that its position on hunger strikers is fully in line with the WMA’s Malta Declaration and that the detainees are entitled to freely choose whether to consent to be fed or to receive medical treatment.

Meanwhile the International Committee of the Red Cross is calling for six detainees who are close to death to be transferred to hospital without delay so that their condition can be monitored.

In Bahrain a prominent activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has been on hunger strike for several months in protest at his imprisonment for anti-government protests.