Middle East Monitor / September 4, 2023
Israel has broken a 30-year record for the number of Palestinians unlawfully detained under the highly controversial administrative detention procedure, through which they are held with neither charge nor trial for set periods renewable indefinitely. The shocking increase was revealed in new data obtained by Israeli human rights group Hamoked from the occupation state’s prison service.
With the number of administrative detainees reaching 1,264, the record of 1,108 set in March 2003 during the Second Intifada has been passed. The only other times when this many Palestinians were held at one time without trial was during the First Intifada in the late 1980s-early 1990s when numbers reached 8-10,000.
Hamoked executive director Jessica Montell condemned the detentions. “This is a mass, arbitrary detention,” she said. “Israel is holding over 1,200 Palestinians without charge or trial, some for years, with no effective judicial review.”
As of this month, Israel is holding 5,088 “security” inmates. Of these, 2,364 have been tried and sentenced; 1,460 are being held on remand; and 1,264 are administrative detainees held without trial.
According to Hamoked, the overwhelming majority of security inmates are Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Holding prisoners and detainees from the occupied territories inside Israel constitutes a blatant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners and detainees outside the occupied territory.
Amnesty International has criticized Israel’s use of administrative detention as “unlawful and cruel”. The rights group described it as a violation of due process that undermines international fair trial standards. “Israel’s increasing use of administrative detention… suggests that [it] is using detention without charge or trial as a measure of first resort, rather than a last resort,” said Amnesty’s Philip Luther.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also expressed concern over administrative detention being “used as a regular practice” and called on Israel to “fully respect international human rights law.”
While Israel defends the practice as necessary for security reasons, human rights groups globally contend that it denies detainees the right to due process, with many held indefinitely on the basis of “secret” evidence and without ever knowing their alleged crime. Israel has issued more than 2,200 administrative detention orders against Palestinian detainees so far this year, said the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club.