1 Feb. '12: Sharp increase in administrative detention in 2011; one detainee on hunger strike for 46 days

Published: 
1 Feb 2012

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel reported on 29 January that Khader ‘Adnan, has been on hunger strike since 18 December 2011. Thirty-four year old 'Adnan, from the village of ‘Araba near Jenin, was detained on 17 December 2011 and placed in administrative detention. ‘Adnan is on the hunger strike in protest against his administrative detention and the manner in which he was arrested and interrogated. According to PHR, “his condition is life-threatening.”

In 2011, there was a sharp increase in the number of Palestinian administrative detainees held by Israel, from 219 in January to 307 in December, according to figures B'Tselem received from the Israel Prison Service. Twenty-nine percent of the detainees had been held for six months to one year; another 24 percent from one to two years. Seventeen Palestinians had been in administrative detention continuously for two to four and a half years, and one man has been held for over five years. At the end of 2011, Israel was holding one minor in administrative detention. This year marks the first time since 2008 that there was an increase in the number of administrative detainees, after the number had fallen from 813, in January 2008, to 204 in December 2010.

Administrative detention is detention without trial, intended to prevent a person from committing an act that is liable to endanger public safety. Such a detention is inherently problematic since, unlike a criminal proceeding, administrative detention is not intended to punish a person for an offense already committed, but to prevent a future danger. The manner in which Israel uses administrative detention is patently illegal. Administrative detainees are not told the reason for their detention or the specific allegations against them. Although detainees are brought before a judge to approve the detention order, most of the material submitted by the prosecution is classified and not shown to the detainee or his attorney. Since the detainees do not know the evidence against them, they are unable to refute it. The detainees also do not know when they will be released: although the maximum period of administrative detention is six months, it can be renewed indefinitely. In fact, of the administrative detainees held in December, over 60% had their detention extended at least once beyond the first detention order.

Administrative detention violates the right to liberty and the right to due process, since the detainee is incarcerated for a prolonged period on the basis of secret evidence, without charge or trial.

Over the years, Israel has held thousands of Palestinians in administrative detention for periods ranging from a few months to several years. The state has also administratively detained a number of Israelis, including settlers, for periods of a few months. There were times during the second intifada that Israel held over a thousand Palestinians held in administrative detention.

Under international law, it is permissible to administratively detain a person only in exceptional cases, to prevent a grave danger that cannot be prevented through less harmful means. Israel’s use of administrative detention blatantly breaches these rules. The army must release all the administrative detainees or prosecute them, in accordance with due process.