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More and more Israelis are being imprisoned without trial

Out of 402 people Israel was holding in administrative detention at the start of November, at least 31 were citizens or residents of Israel. Over the past decade, Israel has held 3,761 people without trial.

By Noam Rotem

A view of aylon prison as Israeli right wing activists and family members of Jewish prisoners who killed Palestinians protest in demand of the release of their relatives on August 13, 2013 in Ramla, Israel. The protest came in response to Israel's announcement that 26 Palestinian prisoners will be released as part of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. (Activestills.org)

Israel’s Ayalon Prison (Activestills.org)

Israel held at least 31 of its own residents and citizens in administrative detention during the month of November, according to a Knesset Research and Information Center report obtained by +972’s Hebrew-language sister site Local Call. That is a very large number when compared to the number of Israelis who have been held in administrative detention in recent years.

According to the report, which was composed at the request of MK Basel Ghattas (Balad/Joint List), four of the administrative detainees are Jews, six are Palestinian citizens of Israel, and 21 are Palestinian permanent residents of Jerusalem. When you include Palestinians from the West Bank, Israel was holding a total of 402 administrative detainees as of the start of November.

Other reports indicate that the number of administrative detainees has increased even more in December.

Administrative detention is an extreme measure for revoking someone’s freedom without putting them on trial or even presenting any evidence or accusations he or she can contest. It is supposed to be used only in extraordinary circumstances.

The legal authority for putting Israeli citizens administrative detention is drawn from the 1979 “Emergency Regulations” law, which is valid as long as the country remains in a “state of emergency.” Israel has been in a declared “state of emergency” since May 15, 1948, the same day it declared independence.

For non-Jewish, non-citizens of Israel living under Israeli military rule in the West Bank, the authority is drawn from Military Order 1651, which bestows the regional military commander with the authority to issue administrative detention orders.

In both cases, the duration of detention is limited. Authorities can issue orders for up to six months of detention without trial, but there is no limit on how many six-month orders can be issued.

Illustrative photo of Palestinian prisoners in an Israeli military prison (By ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of Palestinian prisoners in an Israeli military prison (By ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

According to the Knesset Research and Information Center report, of the 402 total administrative detainees, more than 75 percent (303 individuals) have been in detention without trial for more than six months. Forty percent have been detained without trial for over a year, and 2.5 percent for over two years.

None of those 402 people have been charged with a crime and none of them have had an opportunity to defend themselves in a court of law. Somebody simply decided to put them in prison, and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Israel has put 3,761 people in administrative detention over the past decade, some more than once. That is an enormous number for a country that calls itself a democracy, and which codified such powers for use only in times of emergency.

Among those thousands of administrative detainees, only 35 have been Jewish. More than 99 percent have been Palestinian, the vast majority of whom live under Israeli military rule in the occupied territories.

In roughly 5 percent of cases the state decides to file an indictment at the end of the administrative detention period. The vast majority are simply released when their detention order expires — as if nothing ever happened. After being imprisoned for months and years without ever being formally accused of any crime, they simply go home. Only one administrative detainee, out of thousands, was eventually sentenced to life in prison.

The situation is nothing short of absurd. A measure intended to be used only when all other options have been exhausted has become so popular that it is used on anybody whom the Shin Bet wants to detain. There is evidence that this method of detention has been used in order to recruit intelligence assets, which raises another problem: because everything is secret, there is no way of determining the necessity of these detentions.

The already tenuous supervision of both the military and civilian courts dips into dangerous territory when courts are presented with “classified evidence,” which cannot be shown to the suspect. Detainees have no way of defending themselves.

A report by “Hamoked — Center for the Defense of the Individual” cites Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein saying during a hearing for a Jewish Israeli who was caught on camera shooting a Palestinian man: “It is not possible to hold a fair proceeding when there is material that the defense does not have the opportunity to try to use for its needs.”

Yitzhak Bam, an attorney for some of the current Jewish administrative detainees, was even more descriptive: “Have you ever tried catching a black cat in a pitch-black room when you’re not even sure there’s a cat in the room? That’s what it’s like to challenge an administrative detention order.”

Israel has increased its use of detention without trial in recent months, and for the first time in years it is using it on this side of the Green Line. The ability of the security services to “bypass” the justice system is one of the most dangerous anti-democratic procedures there is. The justice system exists in order to defend the rights of suspects and detainees, and being deprived of that defense comprises a serious blow to one’s human rights, and it represents a fatal blow to the democratic system of government. Israel must immediately stop using administrative detention orders, and either release or put on trial all those it is holding.

Noam Rotem is an Israeli activist, high-tech executive and author of the blog o139.org, subtitled “Godwin doesn’t live here any more.” This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is also a blogger. Read it here.

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    1. Ben

      All of this describes a regime desperate to maintain control because it has no actual legitimacy. Regimes with legitimacy do not need to resort to these totalitarian measures. It’s no different than what the Soviets had to resort to maintain control over the East Germans.

      Reply to Comment
      • Merkava

        Currently, administrative detention is an administrative measure used in countries like the UK (where you claim you come from), the United States (where you ALSO claim you come from; hilarious!), The Netherlands, Saint Sweden, The Federal Republic of Germany, etc. In all of these and other countries individuals could administratively be held without criminal charge and criminal trials. Some of the countries mentioned use it for subject matters that would not even be permitted in Israel. You are a complete, hateful idiot, BEN.

        Reply to Comment
        • Bruce Gould

          Many countries have something like administrative detention on the books but it’s a matter of degree. This article from B’tselem (including statistics) explains the routine use of this procedure in Israel:


          At any rate, the argument that the other guy does it is irrelevant – critics of AD point out that it’s wrong to use it routinely, period.

          Reply to Comment
          • Merkava

            “Many countries have something like administrative detention on the books but it’s a matter of degree”.

            Give examples, BEN. Start with the United States where you claim to come from. Tell us the number of people in administrative detention in the United States and compare it to the number in Israel.

            “At any rate, the argument that the other guy does it is irrelevant – critics of AD point out that it’s wrong to use it routinely, period.”

            Why is that? Why not FIRST take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye? Why the constant fixation on- and obsession with Jews and the Jewish State, while ignoring that worse goes on in YOUR OWN country and elsewhere than in Israel?

            Enlighten us, Ben…eh…..sorry….”BRUCE GOULD”!

            We are waiting……

            Reply to Comment
          • Merkava

            Since BEN is on the run – AGAIN – and unable to defend himself mano-a-mano in a debate, here are some hard statistics from the United Nations.

            This statistics relates ONLY to CHILDREN in administrative detention in 1yr. The adults are not included:

            Austria 874 (2008)
            Germany 377 (number does not include detained children in all Fed. States)
            Italy 2,646 (2008)
            Mexico 5,983 (2007)
            Netherlands 160 (2008)
            United Kingdom 470 (2009)
            United States 8,300 (2007): This number does not reflect the total number of migrant children in government custody as the Department of Homeland Security retains custody of some children who are detained with their parents as well as some children who are not detained with their parents, but whom the agency may consider to be ―accompanied.

            In 2012 alone, the total number of 477,523 adult “illegal” aliens were in administrative detention in the United States. This number does not include the number of individuals in administrative detention on security and other grounds in the US.

            The numbers from 2013 are even more troubling.

            Reply to Comment
          • Felix Reichert

            Nice of you to not provide a source on the bullshit you spew, on the lies you repeat, on the distortions you provide.

            I’ll give an example of your hateful lies:
            In Germany a person can be held without charge for ONE DAY. For 24 hours.

            Now of course there is remand. Which is also limited, to 6 months.
            But if it turns out you were innocent, you get monetary compensation for everyday you were held, and if you get convicted the time you were held in remand is substracted from your actual prison-term.

            Reply to Comment
          • Merkava


            The number of immigration detainees has been decreasing in Germany. In 2013, the country detained 4,812 non-citizens, compared to 5,748 in 2012, 6,466 in 2011, 7,495 in 2010, 8,366 in 2009, and 8,805 in 2008. Out of 6,466 immigration detainees in 2011, 1,673 were detained in North Rhine-Westfalia, 1,125 in Bavaria, 752 in Hesse, 546 in Berlin, 446 in Baden-Württemberg, 415 in Saxony, 298 in Schleswig-Holstein, 284 in Lower Saxony, 238 in Brandenburg, 173 in Hamburg, 164 in Rhineland-Palatinate, 150 in Saarland, 76 in Saxony-Anhalt, 67 in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, 34 in Bremen, and 25 in Thuringia.

            SOURCE: Bundesregierung 2012; Nationale Stelle zur Verhütung von Folter 2014).

            See my response to you post below for frequency and duration of administrative detention of asylum seekers in Germany. After you have dealt with all that, we will get to other forms of administrative detentions in Germany incl. those of repeat offenders and the mentally ill.

            Dose Felix Reichert now understand why he is a complete propagandist idiot?

            Reply to Comment
      • Felix Reichert

        Now of course in none of the countries Merkava names can a detainee be held more than a couple of days or weeks without being charged. In Israel there is basically no limit.

        Reply to Comment
        • Merkava

          1. 18 months, moron, 18 effing months in jail like a criminal WITHOUT charge or trial – in Germany and other EU countries! Custody to secure deportation” and “detention pending exit from the federal territory” may be ordered for up to six months. If an immigration detainee hinders his/her deportation, detention may be extended up to maximum of eighteen months ((Gesetz über den Aufenthalt, die Erwerbstätigkeit und die Integration von Ausländern im Bundesgebiet or Aufenthaltsgesetz/Residence Act, Sections 62(4) and 15(5)). The General Administrative Regulation to the Residence Act provides examples of such behavior, which include lack of participation in getting travel documents, breach of the requirement to surrender the passport, and refusal to contact the diplomatic mission of the non-citizen’s country of origin (General Administrative Regulation to the Residence Act, section 62.3.2). The period of time a detainee has been subject to “custody to prepare deportation” shall count towards the overall duration of “custody to secure deportation” (Residence Act, Section 62(4)).

          2. Violations of numerous provisions of the Residence Act can result in criminal sanctions. A one-year prison sentence or a fine may be imposed on a non-citizen who, inter alia: (1) is residing in the country without necessary documents and has failed to depart despite being ordered to do so; (2) repeatedly fails to adequately report to authorities; (3) does not abide by geographic restrictions or other conditions imposed on their stay; (4) does not adhere to the obligation to reside in a designated facility; and (5) belongs to an organisation or group that consists primarily of foreigners and whose existence, aims, or activities are concealed from the authorities in order to avert the prohibition of said organisation or group (Residence Act, Section 95). There is also the possibility of three-year prisons sentences for non-citizens who enter or reside in the country despite a re-entry ban; furnish or use false or incomplete information in order to procure a residence title or a suspension of deportation; or knowingly use a document procured in this manner for the purpose of deceit in legal matters (Residence Act, Section 95).

          3. In 2010 there were some 2,700 convictions for undocumented stay in Germany; however, only 251 of those cases resulted in prison sentences, of which only 70 actually led to time being served in criminal incarceration The rest get to do other non-imprisonment penalties – (Source: WGAD 2012).

          Does Felix Reichert now realize why he is a complete propagandist idiot? Is Felix Reichert aware of the different kinds of Preventive incarceration Orders that can be issued in Germany and does he know how many people are currently in German jails as a result of such Orders? Des Felix Reichert ever have a source for any of his posts?

          Reply to Comment