An administrative detention is based on administrative orders from the state or the army, without an indictment or trial at a criminal court. Most administrative detainees are detained for security reasons. The vast majority of them are residents of the occupied Palestinian territories.
People who are held under administrative detention often spend months or years in jail, without receiving any information regarding their accusations. In most cases, evidence and legal material that supposedly justify the detention remain undisclosed due to “security reasons”, and cannot be viewed by the detainee or his lawyer.
Around 580 Palestinians are held by Israel under administrative detention. Since administrative orders can be renewed an unlimited number of times, administrative detainees cannot know when they will be released. Even after the release, former administrative detainees continue living with uncertainty, not knowing whether they will be arrested again.
The Legal Basis for Administrative Detention
There are three laws that enable administrative detentions:
- Military Order regarding no. 1651 Security Provisions , sections 284 – 294: This order is part of the army legislation that applies to the West Bank. These detention orders can be issued if there is a “reasonable explanation” for considering the individual as a threat to public security. This term is not defined and its interpretation is subject to the personal judgment of the army commander. Before the expiration of the detention order, the army commander can extend the detention for a period of 6 months, and re-extend it an unlimited number of times.
- Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law: This law came into force in 2002. It was originally meant for Lebanese citizens who were jailed in Israel and used as trading cards for receiving information on kidnapped Israeli soldiers. It is now used for detaining Palestinians from Gaza, where the Israeli laws do not apply. According to this law, an “illegal combatant” is a person who took part in hostile acts towards Israel, directly or indirectly, or a member of a group that commits hostile acts. The term “hostile acts” is not defined under law.
- Defense (Emergency) Regulations: This law replaces the emergency laws from the times of the British mandate. This law is in force as long as the emergency laws are in force. Residents of the occupied territories are detained under this law on rare occasions. According to the Israeli authorities’ data, 15 Israeli citizens were detained under this law in 2011, but Amnesty International cannot verify this.
Conditions for Detention and Release
- All prisons in which administrative detainees are held (except for one), are located in Israel. The imprisonment of Palestinian prisoners in Israel is a breach of international law. According to section 49 and 76 of the fourth Geneva Convention, prisoners who are citizens of an occupied territory must be jailed within the occupied territory, not in the territory of the occupying country.
- The detainees’ families are often prevented from visiting their relatives who are imprisoned in Israel. In many cases, the only relatives who get visitation permits are minor children under 18. This happens because Israel’s permit policy prevents part of the Palestinians from entering its territory. Prevention of relatives’ visitation often serves as a means of punishment.
- While some of the administrative detainees return home after completing their sentence, others go into exile as a condition for their release. Sometimes residents of the West Bank are forced to move into Gaza.
- Amnesty International is strictly against forced exile as well as expulsion of citizens from their homes in an occupied territory. Paragraph 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying force to expel or displace citizens from their homes in the occupied territories.
“I was jailed for 18 years, most of the time under administrative detention. The authorities have no indictment against me, and they do not intend to put me on trial. On what basis do they exile me? I want to live in my country, but since they gave me the hard choice between staying in prison and living in exile with my wife, I was obliged, against my will, to choose the second option. “
Hunger Strikes and the Protest of Administrative Detainees
In the beginning of 2012 a few detainees started a hunger strike as a protest against their detention without indictments, in solitary confinement, and with denial of medical care and family visitations. Soon after, other detainees started a hunger strike and on April 17, 2012, around 2000 detainees and prisoners were on hunger strike.
According to reports received by Amnesty International, during the strike the prison service systematically punished the striking detainees. Their methods included solitary confinement, refusal to hospitalize strikers whose health deteriorated, and the denial of medical exams by independent doctors. Some of the strikers reported physical attacks from prison service workers.
On May 14, 2012, an agreement was signed between the prisoners’ representatives to the Israeli Authorities, which put the hunger strike on halt. According to the reports, Israel agreed to end the 10 year solitary confinement of 19 prisoners, to cancel a 5 year prohibition on family visitations to prisoners from Gaza, and to discuss the prisoners’ demands regarding the improvement of prison conditions.
But after signing the agreement, hunger strikes continued, as did the inappropriate treatment of prisoners.
Administrative Detention and International Law
According to paragraph 9 of ICCPR (International Convention for Civil and Political Rights), arbitrary arrests are prohibited. Denying a person’s freedom must be based on reasons and processes that are based on the law. Furthermore, detainees must be notified about the length of their detention and the reasons for it. They must be allowed access to a court that is authorized to rule without delay about the legality of their detention, and order their release if the detention was illegal.
It should be noted that section no. 4 in the ICCPR says that paragraph 9 regarding arbitrary detentions can be suspended under “public emergency situations that place a nation at risk.” By definition, an emergency situation is a temporary legal situation that provides a solution for extreme threat situations. Israel has been in an ongoing emergency situation since 1948, and its emergency situation has, in fact, become a permanent situation. Amnesty International considers the right to trial as a basic human right. This right should be protected at all times, including emergency situations. The right to a fair trial is a right that cannot be suspended under the Geneva Convention.
Israel ratified both conventions mentioned above. Despite this, Israel claims that the standards of the conventions are not implementable in the occupied territories. This claim was declined by all UN organizations and the International Court of Justice.
In 2001 the UN Committee against Torture found that Israel’s administrative detentions are in contradiction with the prohibition against humiliating, inhumane and cruel treatment. In 2009 the committee repeated this evaluation and commented that Israel often used administrative detention for exceptionally long periods.
The Policy of Amnesty International
Amnesty International is against the system of administrative detention in general, since many countries around the world use it to bypass proper court procedures.
We believe that all political prisoners, including those who are under administrative detention, should receive indictments that are recognized by law and fair trials within a reasonable period of time (or they should be released).
Amnesty International believes that Israel’s administrative detentions in the occupied Palestinian territories are a violation of human rights.
Amnesty International calls on Israel to:
- Stop the usage of administrative detention.
- Release all conscience prisoners immediately and unconditionally.
- Cancel the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law and paragraphs 284 & 294 in the Order regarding Security Provisions.
- Protect detainees from all types of torture and inappropriate treatment.
- Assure that prisoners on hunger strikes will be treated in a humane way, and receive medical care in civil hospitals with suitable facilities and doctors of their choice.
- Assure that prisoners and detainees on hunger strikes will not be punished.
- Assure that all detainees and prisoners will be held in prisons and detention centers within the occupied Palestinian territories and that all of them – including detainees from the Gaza Strip – will receive family visitations.