Israel uses administrative detention against Palestinians
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.”