Palestinian national footballer Mahmoud Sarsak, 25, ended a three-month hunger strike two days ago as part of a deal that will see his release after almost three years of imprisonment without charge or trial. Quoting his lawyers, the Associated Press reports that Sarsak will be released to the Gaza Strip on July 11. Until then, he will be spending time in a civilian hospital where he will be treated to reverse the physiological toll the 93-day hunger strike has taken on his body.
In the latest display of global solidarity for Sarsak, a video was released today showing Dutch politicians and other notable figures donning the world-recognizable orange jerseys of the Dutch national team, each emblazoned with Sarsak’s name. The jerseys carry the number 90 to signify the number of days Sarsak had been on strike at the time the video was being filmed.
The video shows members of the Dutch Parliament as well as former Prime Minister Dries van Agt expressing concern over Sarsak’s treatment and his detention without charge, illegal under international and human rights law.
Recently, internationally star athlete Frédéric Kanouté, known for revealing a “Palestine” shirt from underneath his jersey after scoring a goal during a Spanish league match in 2009, joined dozens of other athletes in formally declaring support for Sarsak. Other footballers and professional football agencies have also called on Israel to release Sarsak.
At present, Akram Rikhawi is on his 70th day on hunger strike although his condition is not known.
The group behind the ‘Sarsak 90‘ jerseys issued the following press release with the video:
ROTTERDAM – WEDNESDAY 20TH JUNE 2012
Video features Dutch politicians opposing Israeli practice of administrative detention
Dutch politicians and other prominent citizens have participated in a video protesting against the ongoing Israeli practice of administrative detention of Palestinian civilians. In this short film by Dutch filmmaker Abdelkarim El-Fassi, former prime minister Dries van Agt and members of Dutch Parliament Harry van Bommel of the Socialist Party and Tofik Dibi of the Green Left, have expressed their dismay over this issue. They voiced serious concerns about the treatment of Mahmoud Al Sarsak, who recently became the longest hunger striker in history by refusing food for 93 days. He forced a deal on June 18th for his release from Israeli prison on July 10th, in exchange for ending his hunger strike.
Even though 25-year old Mahmoud Al Sarsak, university student and member of the Palestinian National Football team, has ended his hunger strike, his impressive protest through the refusal of food has played an important role in exposing the practice of detention of Palestinian civilians without proper trial or charges. Thousands of Palestinian political prisoners this year have waged hunger strikes against their ordeal of unwarranted imprisonment, some of them making headlines worldwide, most notably Khader Adnan and Hana el Shalabi.
Despite their actions having drawn the attention of media and governments all over the world, no effective action has been taken at a political level to address and end the wanton practice by the Israeli regime of detaining Palestinian civilians arbitrarily, often without official charges or due process.
The fact that Mahmoud Al Sarsak has been able to force a deal for his release, has not affected filmmaker El-Fassi’s decision to publish his video. ‘The story of Mahmoud Al Sarsak illustrates the situation of so many other Palestinians, who are sometimes being detained for years in a row without a proper trial. No human being should need to go on such a long hunger strike to force a deal for his or her release, especially if the incarceration itself is already unjustified. I am relieved that Sarsak achieved this release deal, but this does not exempt Israel from well-founded criticism over an ongoing inhumane practice.’
Some Palestinian prisoners are still on hunger strike, like Akram Rikhawi, who is entering his 68th day, and Samer Al Barq, who renewed his hunger strike on May 21st after already having participated in the mass hunger strike by prisoners from April 17th until May 14th.
In the video, people are seen wearing an orange t-shirt in the style of the Dutch national soccer team, with the number 90 – referring to the period of the hungerstrike – and Mahmoud Al Sarsak’s name written on the back of it. Sarsak was on his way to play in a football match in Balata refugee camp in the West Bank, when he was arrested at Erez checkpoint. His detention was extended every six months.
On the date of his release, Sarsak will have completed an almost full three years of imprisonment under Israel’s “Unlawful Combatants Law,” which allows for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to be detained for an unlimited amount of time without charge or trial. This law can be seen as an even stricter version of the one that provides for the administrative detention of Palestinians from the West Bank, offering even less legal protection for the detainees.
According to International Law, the denial of a fair trial constitutes a ‘grave breach’ of the Fourth Geneva Convention, making it one of the most serious forms of war crimes. It also violates Articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In a September 2008 resolution, the European Union called upon Israel to end the use of ‘administrative detention orders’. It has become obvious that the state of Israel is systematically ignoring these calls, and that stronger words and actions are needed to force its compliance with International Law.
The video will be released on YouTube and http://www.sarsak90.org, and is expected to draw attention due to the participation of high-profile politicians and its soccer-themed approach, with the ongoing European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.