Amnesty International has urged the Israeli authorities to release Walid Daqqah, a Palestinian prisoner who is suffering from terminal cancer and chronic lung disease, so that he can receive proper medical care and spend his last days with his family.
Walid Daqqah, 62, has been in prison since 1984 for his involvement in the abduction and killing of an Israeli soldier. He completed his original sentence of 37 years in March 2023, but was given an additional two years in 2018 for allegedly trying to smuggle phones to other inmates. He is now due to be released in March 2025, but his health condition is deteriorating rapidly and he may not survive that long.
According to Amnesty International, Walid Daqqah has been denied access to a potentially life-saving bone marrow transplant by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), which refused to transfer him to a civilian hospital. He also suffered a stroke in February 2023, but the IPS delayed his emergency treatment for 11 days, causing life-threatening complications. He had to have most of his right lung removed and now needs help with all daily activities.
Amnesty International said that Walid Daqqah’s case illustrates the Israeli justice system’s cruelty and discrimination towards Palestinians, and that denying prisoners access to adequate medical care violates international standards and may amount to torture. The organization called on the Israeli authorities to release Walid Daqqah on humanitarian grounds as soon as possible, and to ensure that he is provided with the medical care he urgently needs.
“Walid Daqqah’s case illustrates the Israeli justice system’s cruelty towards Palestinians, including those who are seriously ill or dying. Walid’s health conditions have already been exacerbated by medical neglect on the part of the Israeli Prison Service – when he had a stroke earlier this year, the IPS refused to transfer him to a proper hospital for 11 days, a delay which led to life-threatening complications. Now, Walid Daqqah faces the prospect of a painful death behind bars,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Walid Daqqah’s wife Sanaa Salameh told Amnesty International that her husband had been subjected to “systematic” and longstanding medical negligence in prison.
“He has been suffering for years from various illnesses and infections, but he never received proper treatment or medication. He was always given painkillers or antibiotics that did not work. He was never allowed to see a specialist or have any tests done. He was always treated as a number, not as a human being,” she said.
Amnesty International also cited the opinion of Israeli haematologist Moshe Gatt, who evaluated Walid Daqqah’s case in January 2023 and recommended that he be relocated to a clean and hygienic environment. However, the IPS ignored his advice and kept Walid Daqqah in the clinic at Ayalon Prison, which is ill-equipped to deal with his conditions.
Amnesty International’s 2022 report on Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians sets out how the Israeli military justice system systematically discriminates against Palestinians and denies them the right to a fair trial and due process.
Palestinian human rights organizations such as Addameer have long documented Israel’s policy of medical negligence against Palestinian prisoners. The World Health Organization and the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT have also raised concerns about the IPS’s treatment of sick Palestinian prisoners.
On 26 June 2023, a special parole board rejected Walid Daqqah’s request for early release on the grounds of his illness. On 7 August 2023, the Lod District Court rejected Walid Daqqah’s petition against the parole board’s decision.
Amnesty International said that it will continue to campaign for Walid Daqqah’s release and for an end to Israel’s violations of Palestinian prisoners’ rights.
“Denying prisoners access to adequate medical care violates international standards on the treatment of detainees, and may constitute torture. Israeli authorities must release Walid Daqqah on humanitarian grounds as soon as possible, and ensure that he is provided with the medical care he urgently needs,” said Heba Morayef.