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Ailing Palestinian Prisoner, Bassam al-Sayeh, Dies in Israeli Prison: Suspicions of Medical Neglect

Ref: 101/2019


An ailing Palestinian prisoner, Bassam al-Sayeh (47) from Nablus, died yesterday in Israeli prison under circumstances that incite suspicions of an intentional medical neglect by the Israeli authorities, especially that the deceased suffered from bone cancer before his arrest and his condition deteriorated while in custody as he developed leukemia. His condition further deteriorated in the last while, before he was pronounced death at Assaf Harofeh medical center in Israel. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) holds Israeli authorities responsible for his death and expresses its grave concern that they have stalled in providing al-Sayeh with appropriate and timely medical care. PCHR also condemns the Israeli persistence on ignoring calls for his release, as is standard for humanitarian cases such as al’Sayeh’s, despite their knowledge of his deteriorating health; leaving him to die alone in prison.


Israeli forces arrested Al-Sayeh on 8 October 2015 while present at his wife’s court hearing. He had suffered from bone cancer since 2011, and his condition worsened due to his arrest conditions and denial of appropriate medical treatment in prison. As a result, he was diagnosed with leukemia and his health continued to deteriorate over the past 4 years. Recently, his health was noticeably worse as human rights organizations reported he suffered from chronic and severe pneumonia and an 80% heart failure. Despite persistent calls for his release, Israeli forces refused it and transferred him to al-Ramla clinic on 29 July 2019. This clinic is nicknamed as “the slaughterhouse” by prisoners, in an indication of the maltreatment they receive at it. On 12 August 2019, al-Sayeh was transferred to Assaf Harofeh medical center due to his rapidly deteriorating health, where he was pronounced dead yesterday.


Al-Sayeh’s death highlights the overall deterioration of the conditions of at least 6,000 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel and reflects the extent of punitive measures it employs against them, especially in terms of medical neglect and inadequate treatment provided to at least 150 prisoners with chronic and serious illnesses.


It should be noted that his is the third death within Israeli prisons in 2019. On 06 February, Fares Mohammed Baroud (51), who spent 28 years in the Israeli jails, Fares Mohammed Baroud (51), from al-Shati’ refugee camp in western Gaza City, died only hours after being transferred from “Ramon” Prison to “Soroka” Hospital in circumstances raising suspicions of deliberate medical negligence by the Israeli authorities, especially that he suffered problems in the stomach, heart and liver. Also on 16 July, Nassar Majed Taqatqah (31), from Beit Fajjar village, south of Bethlehem, died while in solitary confinement in “Nitzan” Prison (al-Ramlah) in Israel. The late Nassar was arrested from his house on 09 June 2019 and put into investigation.


PCHR holds the Israeli government fully responsible for the death of detainee al-Sayeh, and for the lives of dozens of sick detainees who would face the same fate if the policy of deliberate medical negligence continues, especially under the inhumane and humiliating imprisonment conditions where prisoners are subject to physical and psychological torture and denied adequate healthcare.  Additionally, PCHR:


  1. Calls upon the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) to increase its follow-up on the conditions of Palestinian detainees and prisoners in Israeli prisons and to investigate the imprisonment conditions; and
  2. Calls upon the international community to compel Israel to respect international law and international humanitarian law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.