Since 2015, hardly a month has gone by without Israel holding Palestinian minors in administrative detention; four were being held at the end of 2019. The military justice system regularly violates the rights of detained minors, who face it alone with no explanation of their rights or what lies ahead, while Israel makes a show of protecting their rights. Administrative detention makes this worse as the date of release is unknown. B’Tselem spoke with three minors, two of whom are still in detention and the third was released in early January 2020.
Israel uses two kinds of proceedings to imprison Palestinian residents of the West Bank: criminal and administrative. Actually fairly similar, as no genuine legal proceeding is undertaken in either case, the one major difference is that criminal proceedings culminate in a finite prison sentence, whereas administrative detention can be extended indefinitely. In five cases from the past two years, B’Tselem found that the military eliminated even this difference, imposing administrative detention on prisoners on the last day of their court-mandated sentence.
Hundreds of Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons, in Israel and in the West Bank, without charges, without being seeing the alleged evidence against them and without knowing when they will be released. Israel calls this routine practice “administrative detention” and has held hundreds of Palestinians this way at any given moment over decades. Administrative detention powers are extreme and sweeping, and while the detentions are ostensibly subject to judicial review, they are routinely upheld by the military courts and the Supreme Court.
Israel recently agreed to stop renewing the administrative detention of three Palestinians who went on hunger strike to protest being held without trial or time limit. Risking their lives is the only way for such detainees to go free, to challenge the injustice, and to prevent repeated renewal of their detention, given that judicial review is a mere formality. The fact that Israel insists in holding them even on the verge of death belies that argument that they are being held to prevent a threat to public security. This practice must stop.
On 13 June 2016 Bilal Kayed finished serving a 14½-year prison sentence. His waiting family was then told that he was not being released, and was being placed in administrative detention for six months. Administrative detention is based on classified “evidence” that is not revealed to the detainee, so he cannot refute it, and has no maximum time limit. While Israel has long and widely used this draconian measure, imposing administrative detention immediately after a long prison sentence is exceptionally harsh. Yet the military judges - who are an integral part of the mechanisms of occupation - approved it even in this case.
In October 2015, Israel resumed its use of administrative detention against Palestinian minors, for the first time since December 2011. At the end of April 2016, the IPS was holding 13 – the highest number since August 2008. Administrative detainees are held for indefinite periods of time, without knowing the charges against them and without standing trial. The increase in the number of Palestinians held this way, and the renewed inclusion of minors, is an even greater abuse of this draconian measure than before.
According to Israel Prison Service figures, the last quarter of 2015 saw a marked rise in the number of Palestinians in Israeli custody, including administrative detainees, women and minors: at the end of 2015, 6,066 Palestinians were being held on security grounds, the highest number since July 2010. This includes 584 administrative detainees - the most since September 2008; 422 minors - the most since August 2008 at the latest, and 44 women - the most since September 2009.
In a letter sent today to the Prime Minister, Hagai Elad criticizes the HCJ ruling rejecting al-Qiq’s request to transfer to a Ramallah hospital. The HCJ justices argued that if the security establishment sought to detain al-Qiq again in the future, this would endanger soldiers’ lives. Elad notes that “This position reflects a new low in the instrumentalist approach to human beings.” The fact that the Court accepted this argument says more about the justices than about its reasonableness.
On 4 Feb. 2016 the High Court of Justice “suspended” the administrative detention of Muhammad al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike for 72 days. This vague decision is essentially meaningless: The ruling states that his relatives may visit him in hospital in Israel, but does not oblige Israel to issue them entry permits. Administrative detention orders are subject to judicial review, but the courts usually approve the orders, rarely questioning the security establishment’s position. Even so, in view of al-Qiq’s condition, the HCJ’s evasive legal solution and the refusal to rescind the order are extreme.
Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, 33, has been on hunger strike for 65 days (as of 28 Jan) to protest his arrest. He has been in administrative detention for over a month. According to medical literature, his life is by now in danger. Last week, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected Al-Qiq’s petition for release and refrained from determining, as yet, whether he should be released due to his medical condition. According to recent Israel Prison Service data, 527 Palestinians are currently being held in administrative detention – the highest figure since 2009.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.