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From the field

Israeli authorities must immediately release Muhammad ‘Alan from renewed administrative detention

Muhammad 'Alan. Photo: Curtesy of the family.

Today (16 Sept.) media reports stated that upon being discharged from hospital, Muhammad ‘Alan – whose administrative detention order was suspended after he staged a two-month hunger strike demanding he be released – was re-detained under a new order. The authorities continue to harass ‘Alan, who had reached a life-threatening condition because of the hunger strike he held to protest the arbitrary denial of his liberty without the benefit of due process. B’Tselem once more urges Israeli authorities to release ‘Alan immediately from administrative detention.

‘Alan, a 30-year-old resident of ‘Einbus, Nablus District, the West Bank, was on hunger strike for two months, protesting the denial of his liberty without indictment and without being told why he is imprisoned. When his medical condition became life-threatening and it was feared he had suffered permanent brain damage, Israel’s High Court of Justice suspended his administrative detention. ‘Alan has no way of countering allegations against him or trying to prove his innocence. He has been held under continuous administrative detention for more than nine months, since 6 November 2014. On 30 April 2015, when the first six months of his administrative detention ended, the detention was extended until 4 November 2015.

Administrative detention is detention without trial, officially intended to prevent a person from committing an act that could threaten public safety. Unlike a criminal proceeding, administrative detention is not intended to punish the detainee for an offense that has been committed, but to prevent a future one. The entire process is not open:

administrative detainees are not informed of the reason for their detention or the specific allegations against them. Although they are brought before a judge to have the detention order approved, virtually all of the material submitted by the prosecution is classified, leaving the detainees with no knowledge of the evidence allegedly against them and no way to try to refute it. Israel’s security establishment exploits the confidentiality surrounding administrative detention procedures to jail people for offenses they are suspected of having already committed, in order to avoid exposing the evidence against them. This is a violation of international law, which stipulates that administrative detention should be used to prevent future danger.

Furthermore, administrative detainees do not know when they will be released. Although the maximum period of every detention order is six months, the martial law that applies in the West Bank allows these orders to be renewed indefinitely. Over the years, Israel’s security forces have placed thousands of Palestinians under administrative detention for periods ranging from several months to several years. Some Israeli citizens, including settlers, have also been held in administrative detention, for short periods of several months. At various times during the second intifada, Israel was holding more than 1,000 administrative detainees. According to Israel Prison Service (IPS) figures, at the end of June 2015, some 40% of the administrative detainees in its custody had been held for a period of between six to twelve months, and another 27% for one to two years. Fourteen detainees had been held in administrative detention for over two consecutive years.

On 30 July 2015, the Knesset - Israel’s legislature - passed a law that permits force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike under certain conditions. Force-feeding prisoners on a hunger strike against their will is prohibited, as it violates their dignity, their right to autonomy over their body, and their right to express protest by whatever means they choose. Statements made by the international medical community reflect a consensus that as a rule, force-feeding individuals who are not mentally incapacitated and who refuse treatment of their own free will is prohibited. For this reason, the Israeli Medical Association also strongly opposes the legislation.