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From the field

Detained Without Trial: Administrative Detention in the Occupied Territories Since the Beginning of the Intifada

October 1992, Summary


The report includes the following sections:

  1. Introduction;
  2. Administrative Detention in International Law;
  3. Historical Background;
  4. The Detainees;
  5. Conditions of Internment at Ketziot;
  6. Conclusions and Recommendations.

Over 14,000 administrative detention orders have been issued to Palestinians since the beginning of the Intifada. Most of these detainees received a six-month administrative detention order, some had their detentions extended by an additional six months, while a few were detained for several years without trial.

At the writing of the report, Israel's use of administrative detention had decreased. At the end of September, 1992, there were 185 Palestinians in administrative detention. In the course of the Intifada there have been periods when the number of Palestinians taken into administrative detention per month hovered around the 1,500 mark.

Eleven Palestinians received, around the writing of the report, six-month administrative detention orders as a substitute for deportation orders, which had been cancelled by the new Israeli government.

According to international law, the arrest and detention of persons without trial is permitted only in situations of unusual and absolute necessity. International regulations have laid out clear restrictions and guidelines governing the use of detention without trial, which emphasize above all that administrative detention is a preventive measure that can in no way be used as a substitute for punishment.

This report describes in detail the criteria in Israeli and international law for issuing administrative detention orders. It then describes how the authorities have used this sanction in the territories since the beginning of the Intifada. The report seeks to determine whether administrative detention, as employed by Israel in the territories, is in fact being used as a preventive measure. The report then examines the dangers these detentions purport to prevent. As most of the administrative detainees (since March 1988) had been held in the Ketziot detention camp in the Negev desert, the report examines conditions in Ketziot and seeks to evaluate whether they complied with the requirements of international law.

Since the beginning of the Intifada, until the report was issued, the use of administrative detention had grown to monstrous proportions, and over 14,000 administrative detention orders had been issued.

Both those who unilaterally oppose the use of administrative detention, and those who consider it permissible to use this authority in rare and extreme cases, reject the sweeping use that has been made of administrative detention in the Israeli-occupied territories. Its use is invalid and illegal for the following reasons:

  1. Use of administrative detention in the occupied territories is for purposes of punishment, not prevention.
  1. Administrative detention procedures and appeals are illegal.
  1. The location of Ketziot, where most of the administrative detainees were held, was illegal; the conditions of the facility were illegal and inhuman.

The report enumerates grave shortcomings in the areas of health, nutrition and living conditions, and discusses the extreme crowding in the tents and the exposure to the difficult climatic conditions in Ketziot. The report does not, however, include recommendations for improving these conditions, since our position was that the entire camp should have been closed down. Israel, as part of the international community, is obligated to uphold the minimum conditions stipulated by the U.N.; lack of prison space, or lack of funds, are not considerations which justify these pronounced violations of fundamental rights.