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From the field

23 Feb. 2012: Khader ‘Adnan ends hunger strike after state agrees not to extend detention

On 21 February 2012, a few hours before a scheduled High Court hearing, the State Attorney's Office announced that Khader ‘Adnan’s administrative detention would not be extended when it expires on 17 April, provided that no new intelligence information is found.

Following the announcement, ’Adnan ended the hunger strike that he began on 18 December 2011, the day after he was arrested at his home in Arabeh, near Jenin, in protest against his detention and interrogation.

‘Adnan’s hunger strike lasted 66 days. According to media reports and information published by Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, which closely monitored ‘Adnan’s medical condition, his health deteriorated and he lost 30 kilograms. Despite this, during most of the time he was hospitalized, he was hand-cuffed to the bed. During the hunger strike, B'Tselem wrote to the Minister for Intelligence Matters Dan Meridor, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and military and prison officials, demanding that ‘Adnan be released or prosecuted.

‘Adnan is one of the 309 Palestinian administrative detainees held by Israel, according to figures of the Israel Prison Service for 31 January 2012. These figures show a steady increase in the number of administrative detainees over the past year: from 219 in January 2011 to 307 at the end of the year. On 31 December 2011, some 29% of the administrative detainees were held for a period of between six to twelve months, and another 24% for one to two years. Another seventeen people were held between two and four and a half years. One detainee has been held in administrative detention for over five years. The increase over the past year, reverses the positive trend that began in 2008, when the number of administrative detainees declined from 813 in January 2008 to 204 in December 2010.

Following the State Attorney's Office announcement, the press and various web sites broadcast a video showing ‘Adnan exhorting attacks against Israeli civilians. B'Tselem reiterates its position that if there is evidence ‘Adnan engaged in illegal activities, the authorities should prosecute him, in a fair proceeding in which the specific charges, the investigative material and evidence are available to him and his attorneys. Administrative detention cannot be a substitute for the criminal justice process.

Administrative detention is detention without trial, the declared aim being to prevent the person from committing an act that is liable to endanger 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 offense. Therefore, the procedure is inherently unfair. Administrative detainees are not told the reason for their detention or the specific allegations against them. Detainees are brought before a judge for purposes of approving the detention order, but virtually all of the material submitted by the prosecution is privileged. The detainees do not know when they will be released: although the maximum period of a detention order is six months, it can be renewed indefinitely. The detention of 60 percent of the administrative detainees held in December 2011 had been extended at least once.

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 held a handful of Israelis, including settlers, for periods up to a few months. There were times over the past decade when the number of Palestinians held in administrative detention exceeded one thousand.

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