Israel uses administrative detention against Palestinians

Friday 08/04/2016
Palestinian journalist Mohammed al-Qeq, 33, was on hunger strike to protest his administrative detention in an Israeli jail, before being admitted to a hospital in the northern Israeli city of Afula, on February 5th.

Hebron - Administrative detention in Israel is one of a kind. It entails arrest and de­tention without charge or a court hearing. The process depends on secret evidence and a covert verbal indictment, to which neither the defendant nor a defence lawyer has access. And the detainees are only Palestinians.
Under directives by Israel’s mili­tary command, detention is au­thorised by “administrative order” rather than judicial decree. The initial arrest warrant is valid for six months but detention can be re­newed indefinitely.
Palestinians see administrative detention as tailored by the Israeli parliament to muzzle Palestinian opponents of the Jewish state.
“It’s a sword held on our necks,” Palestinian Minister of Prisoners’ Af­fairs Issa Karakea said.
“Israel is the only country in the world that uses this kind of admin­istrative detention,” Karakea noted. He pointed out that Israel has been violating the Geneva conventions, which stipulate that such deten­tions can be carried out only in exceptional or extraordinary emer­gency cases.
“But since the year 2000, Israel has had 25,000 cases of administra­tive detention, which indicates that such arrests have become part of its routine and so systematic that any­one can be arrested with the pretext of being a threat to Israel’s security,” the minister said.
Palestinian scholars regard Is­rael’s administrative detention as a “collective punishment” to “muzzle specifically educated Palestinians”, such as rights activists, university students, lawyers and journalists. It has even used the law to crack down on outspoken Palestinian lawmak­ers, businessmen and housewives.
The Israeli rights watchdog B’Tselem said international law sanctioned administrative deten­tion in certain circumstances. “But because of the serious injury to due-process, rights inherent in this measure and the obvious danger of its abuse, international law has placed rigid restrictions on its appli­cation,” B’Tselem said on its web­site.
It said under international law, administrative detention “can be used only in the most exceptional cases as the last means available for preventing a danger that could be thwarted by less harmful means”.
“Israel’s use of administrative detention blatantly violates the re­strictions of international law,” the group said. It explained that Israel “carries it out in a highly classified manner that denies detainees the possibility of mounting a proper de­fence”.
Additionally, it said, “the deten­tion has no upper time limit. Over the years, Israel has placed thou­sands of Palestinians in administra­tive detention for prolonged periods of time, without trying them, with­out informing them of the charges against them and without allowing them or their counsel to examine the evidence.”
Karakea said Israel has used the administrative detention to arrest 62 Palestinian lawmakers in the Palestine Legislative Council since 2006.
“Three lawmakers are still in detention without being formally charged and without trial,” noted Karakea, whose duties include fol­lowing the fate of Palestinians in Israeli jails, as well as those in ad­ministrative detention.
There are 700 Palestinians in Is­raeli jails who were arrested under the provisions of the law. Israel renewed the detention of 30% of them at least twice, Karakea said.
Some Palestinian prisoners resort to food strikes and “starve to death in prison to bring their plight to the attention of the outside world”, he said, adding the moves had little ef­fect on Israel and an international community focused on world trou­bles elsewhere.
Fareed Atrash, director of the Palestinian group Independent Au­thority for Human Rights, said Is­rael’s administrative detention was arbitrary and a flagrant violation of conventions pertaining to social and political rights of individuals.
“The detention order isn’t is­sued by a judge, or a court, but by military officials who serve in the army,” he said. “The order is outside the jurisdiction of the judiciary. It can’t be appealed. And, those who are ordered detained are usually Palestinian civilians or politicians, who do not carry arms and do not constitute any danger on Israel’s se­curity.
“Those ordered detained are treated like outlaws, not prisoners of war, as the law stipulates.”