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Administrative arrests: Months or years without due process

At any given moment, hundreds of Palestinians are held by Israel without charges or trial. Of the Palestinians currently under administrative arrest, 88 have been held for more than a year. One has been held for more than five years.

Some advocacy groups and Israeli officials have recently claimed that Khader Adnan, the 33-year-old Palestinian on a hunger strike for more than two months now, “is no saint,” and that real security concerns led to his arrest. But we can never know for sure, since Adnan is held under administrative arrest, a measure that contradicts the logic at the heart of the rule of law: it aims to put people in prisons not for what they did or conspired to do, but for what they might do. In other words, he is guilty until proven innocent. And there is no way to try and prove he is innocent, since Adnan won’t face trial.

This is the heart of the matter: at any given moment, hundreds of Palestinians are held by Israel without trial, with no charges filed against them, and without the ability to defend themselves against non-existent charges. In short, they are simply thrown into prison for a period of up to six months, which can be renewed indefinitely. Each of Khader Adnan’s many previous arrests lasted months – a fact that goes a long way to explain why he is willing to take such an extreme measure as a life-threatening hunger strike. What other hope does he have?

Israel claims that Adnan is a member of Islamic Jihad? It should take him to court and charge him with membership in a terrorist organization, with planning or taking part in illegal activities, or another item on the very long list that is often used against Palestinians. But why bother, when you can simply pick him up at his home, place him in prison and forget about the whole thing? If it wasn’t for his hunger strike, would any news organization bother to deal with those “arrests”?

The important point is that Adnan’s case is not unique. There are 309 Palestinians held under administrative arress right now, the highest number since October 2009. You can see the full statistics for the last decade here. These numbers were obtained by B’Tselem, in accordance with the new Freedom of Information Law. Without it,and without B’Tselem, there was no way to know even how many Palestinians are held by Israel without trial. (It’s therefore easy to understand why so many Israelis wish B’Tselem didn’t exist – sometimes it’s nicer not to know.)

Administrative detention exist in other countries, but is considered a unique and exceptional measure, and its implementation usually leads to a vigorous public debate. In the West Bank, it’s routine. Over the years, Israel has held thousands of Palestinians in administrative detention for periods ranging from a few months to several years. Eighty of the Palestinians held under administrative arrest – some 26 percent of the detainees – have been held for six months to one year; another 88 people (about 28.5 percent) from one to two years. Sixteen Palestinians have been in administrative detention continuously for two to four and a half years, and one man has been held for over five years. It should be noted that a few settlers have also been held in the past under administrative arrest, an act which was reported and rightly criticized in the Israeli media.

Check out +972′s full coverage of Khader Adnan’s hunger strike here

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  • COMMENTS

    1. aristeides

      Unfortunately, this kind of detention is becoming more common in the world, under the influence of the “war on terror.” One of the many misdeeds for which I will never forgive Barack Obama is his insistence that Congress pass such a measure allowing detention of US citizens.

      .
      Whether this is a consequence of Israeli influence, I can not say.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Steve

      ARISTEIDES: “Whether this is a consequence of Israeli influence, I can not say.”

      What an absurd thing to even suggest. I’m pretty sure that in the history of civilization, countries around the world have detained/imprisoned tons of people without charging them. It isn’t some new concept that Israel invented that everyone is copying. Of course, obsessed Israel-bashers will try to suggest it anyway.

      Reply to Comment
    3. AT

      “Administrative detention exist in other countries, but is considered a unique and exceptional measure, and its implementation usually leads to a vigorous public debate”

      Except in the many, many countries where it is routine and there is no debate unless you want to end up dead or in administrative detention. Which is exactly why Israel should end this practice unless it is happy to be in the company of the world’s authoritarian regimes.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Passerby

      UK, US and Australia have administrative detention. Other than the UK, that’s pretty good company.

      Reply to Comment
    5. aristeides

      Guantanamo and Abu Graib aren’t good company, and neither was Long Kesh Jail.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Passerby

      Perhaps not. And yet, the point remains.
      ———
      It seems to me there is an easy solution and it is to appoint an independent ombudsman to monitor all cases of administrative detention. There is every reason to accept the contention of the Israeli security services that some of their sources could be compromised in open legal hearings, and then again, it’s easy to see how administrative detention could be used as a punishment or inappropriately. Israel should appoint independent oversight to review every prisoner’s file, with the authority to move the prisoner into a normal legal track when the situation doesn’t merit administrative detention.

      Reply to Comment
    7. directrob

      Not enough, the Human Rights Committee had in 2010:
      .
      () Refrain from using administrative detention, in particular for children, and ensure that detainees’ rights to fair trial are upheld at all times; and
      .
      () Grant administrative detainees prompt access to counsel of their own choosing, inform them immediately, in a language which they understand, of the charges against them, provide them with information to prepare their defence, bring them promptly before a judge and try them in their own or their counsel’s presence.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Passerby

      This would be the same “Human Rights” committee assigned by the UN “Human Rights” body that almost admitted Syria into its ranks last year?

      Reply to Comment
    9. directrob

      Not much wrong with their 2010 recommendation.

      Reply to Comment
    10. dickerson3870

      RE: “…hundreds of Palestinians are held by Israel without trial, with no charges filed against them, and without the ability to defend themselves against non-existent charges. In short, they are simply thrown into prison for a period of up to six months, which can be renewed indefinitely. ” ~ Noam Sheizaf

      SOMEWHAT AKIN TO JOSEPH K’s PREDICAMENT IN “THE TRIAL” BY FRANZ KAFKA:
      After months of trial postponement, Joseph K goes to court painter Titorelli to ask for advice. He is told to hope for little. He might get definite acquittal, ostensible acquittal, or indefinite postponement. No one is ever really acquitted, but sometimes cases can be extended indefinitely.
      TITORELLI: “You see, in definite acquittal, all the documents are annulled. But with ostensible acquittal, your whole dossier continues to circulate. Up to the higher courts, down to the lower ones, up again, down. These oscillations and peregrinations, you just can’t figure ‘em.”
      JOSEPH K: “No use in trying either, I suppose.”
      TITORELLI: “Not a hope. Why, I’ve known cases of an acquitted man coming home from the court and finding the cops waiting there to arrest him all over again. But then, of course, theoretically it’s always possible to get another ostensible acquittal.”
      JOSEPH K: “The second acquittal wouldn’t be final either.”
      TITORELLI: “It’s automatically followed by the third arrest. The third acquittal, by the fourth arrest. The fourth…”

      Reply to Comment
    11. dickerson3870

      P.S. RE: “Somewhat akin to Joseph K’s predicament in ‘The Trial’ by Franz Kafka” – me, above

      ARTICLE, 2/23/12: (excerpt) Israeli officials were likely hoping that their policy of detention without charges would stop being a topic of discussion after Khader Adnan ended his hunger strike earlier this week. A new striker has emerged, however, in the form of 29-year-old Hana al-Shalabi.
      Ms. Shalabi’s capture is nothing new. She was held in “administrative detention” for over two years without charges before being released in October as part of the Shalit prisoner swap. That lasted a couple of months, but Israel announced a new administrative detention for Shalabi late last week, still with no charges…

      Reply to Comment

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