Death in custody of Walid Daqqah is cruel reminder of Israel’s disregard for Palestinians’ right to life

Amnesty International, 8/04/24

Responding to the death in custody of Walid Daqqah, a 62-year-old Palestinian writer who was the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails after having spent 38 years imprisoned, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research, Advocacy, Policy and Campaigns said:

“It is heart-wrenching that Walid Daqqah has died in Israeli custody despite the many calls for his urgent release on humanitarian grounds following his 2022 diagnosis with bone marrow cancer and the fact that he had already completed his original sentence. 

“Walid Daqqah’s death is a cruel reminder of Israel’s systematic medical neglect and disregard for Palestinian prisoners’ rights. For Daqqah and his family, the last six months in particular were an endless nightmare, during which he was subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, including beatings and humiliation by the Israeli Prison Service, according to his lawyer. He was not permitted a phone call with his wife since 7 October. His final appeal for parole on humanitarian grounds was rejected by the Israeli Supreme Court, effectively sentencing him to die behind bars.

“Sanaa Salameh, Walid Daqqah’s wife who tirelessly campaigned for his release, could not embrace her dying husband one last time before he passed. Israeli authorities must now return Walid Daqqah’s body to his family without delay so that they that they could give him a peaceful and dignified burial and allow them to mourn his death without intimidation,” Erika Guevara-Rosas said.  

The lawyer who last visited Walid Daqqah on 24 March in Ramleh prison clinic told Amnesty International that she was shocked by his sharp weight loss and visible fragility. Denying prisoners access to adequate medical care violates international standards on the treatment of detainees and may constitute torture. 


On 25 March 1986, Israeli forces arrested Walid Daqqah, then 24, a Palestinian citizen of Israel. In March 1987, an Israeli military court sentenced him to life imprisonment after convicting him of commanding the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)-affiliated group that had abducted and killed Israeli soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984. Daqqah was not convicted of carrying out the murder himself, but of commanding the group, an accusation he always rejected, and his conviction was based on British emergency regulations dating back to 1945, which require a much lower standard of proof for conviction than Israeli criminal law.

Amnesty International has campaigned for Walid Daqqah since last August, calling on Israeli authorities to release him on humanitarian grounds, citing independent medical opinion that Walid Daqqah’s days were numbered and the fact that Walid Daqqah had already completed his 37-year sentence in March 2023, but an earlier court ruling sentenced him to two additional years in prison – over his involvement in getting mobile phones to other prisoners to help them contact their families –  putting off his release date until March 2025, a day which he tragically did not live to see. 

During his time in prison, Walid Daqqah wrote extensively about the Palestinian lived experience in Israeli prisons. He acted as a mentor and educator for generations of young Palestinian prisoners, including children. His writings, which included letters, essays, a celebrated play and a novel for young adults, were an act of resistance against the dehumanization of Palestinian prisoners. “Love is my modest and only victory against my jailer,” he once wrote.

Walid Daqqah’s writings behind bars are a testament to a spirit never broken by decades of incarceration and oppression

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