New report by HaMoked and B'Tselem:
Israel’s policy of detention without trial is illegal
335 Palestinians still being held without trial, 29 of them from 2-5 years continuously
In a new report HaMoked and B'Tselem are publishing today (Wednesday, 14.10.09), the organizations severely criticize Israel’s detention of Palestinians without trial. The report states that the policy of extensive detentions breaches international law, which permits use of administrative detention only in very extreme cases.
During the second intifada, more than 1,000 Palestinians were held simultaneously in administrative detention. In recent months, there has been a steady decrease in the number of detainees: on 30 September 2009, the number stood at 335, among them three women and one minor. Of these, some 37 percent have been held from six months to a year and some 33 percent for one year to two years. 28 Palestinians have been in administrative detention for two to four years, and one has been detained for more than four and a half years.
The report, Without Trial, holds that the judicial review of the administrative-detention proceedings presents a semblance of a fair judicial process, but in fact denies the detainees any possibility to reasonably defend themselves against the allegations made against them. In the vast majority of cases, the judges declare evidence privileged and rely on written reports by the Israeli Security Agency, which are submitted to them in the absence of the detainee or his attorney. Consequently, the detainees cannot refute the allegations or offer alternative evidence.
As a result of this process, among others things, most detention orders are approved by the court. Between August 2008 – July 2009, military-court judges cancelled 5 percent of the orders brought before them for review and approved 95 percent. In 2008, the military appeals court accepted 57 percent of the prosecution’s appeals and only 15 percent of the appeals filed by detainees.
In 2002, the Knesset enacted the Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law. The Law enables sweeping and swift detention without trial of many persons for long periods, and provides detainees with even less protections than the few granted detainees under the Administrative Detention Order that applies in the West Bank. Furthermore, an amendment passed in 2008 eased the use of the Law in the event of “wide-scale hostilities.”
The Law was originally intended to enable the internment of Lebanese nationals whom Israel classified as “bargaining chips”. To the best of B'Tselem’s and HaMoked’s knowledge, Israel has used it against 54 persons, holding some of them without trial for long periods – up to seven and a half years. 15 were Lebanese nationals who were subsequently released, and 39 were residents of the Gaza Strip. Most of the latter were detained during Operation Cast Lead in 2009 and have since been released. On 30 September 2009, Israel was holding nine Gazans pursuant to the Law.
HaMoked and B'Tselem call on the government of Israel to release the administrative detainees or to prosecute them according to the standards of international law regarding due process. The organizations also call on the government to immediately cease use of the Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law, and to act to repeal the statute.