The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, released a statement last Tuesday on Khader Adnan — the Palestinian who garnered global attention with a 66-day hunger strike, protesting his arbitrary detention and Israel’s policy of “administrative detention.”
Among other things, Falk suggested that Adnan’s inhumane treatment could be “subject to international criminal accountability, including through universal jurisdiction.” Later in the day, the Israeli government agreed to release Adnan ahead of schedule; and the 33-year-old ended his hunger strike, still shackled to his bed.
The extent to which Falk’s statement helped secure Adnan’s release is difficult to gauge. Adnan’s imminent death, and the unrest to follow, certainly shaped the government’s calculus. Regardless, Falk’s intervention—like the hunger strike itself—exposed alternative strategies of resistance and accountability.
Rather than official diplomats and international courts taking center stage, Adnan opted for a symbolically charged hunger strike. Falk, an independent expert appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council, crucially reframed the debate: defining Adnan’s treatment as internationally illegal and threatening punishment in foreign courts.
When diplomatic channels are blocked, and rights abuses persist, societal forces can take decentralized and no less effective action. Occasionally, the results are dramatic, and an individual life is spared.