Administrative Detention: Israel’s Way of Bypassing Justice

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Palestinians hold pictures of prisoner Hana Shalabi, during a protest in support of Shalabi outside Ofer prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah 15 March 2012. The deteriorating health of Shalabi is focusing international attention on Israel's decades-old use of administrative detention. (Photo: REUTERS - Mohamad Torokman)

By: Fadi Abu Saada

Published Friday, March 16, 2012

Tens of thousands of Palestinians and their families have suffered from the humiliation brought on by a single law, one that Israel uses to jail people without charges.

Ramallah – There is no doubt that the historic hunger strike by Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, a leading member of Islamic Jihad – which lasted for 66 days – cast a light on the injustice of the occupation’s administrative detention law.

Now female prisoner, Hana Shalabi, is doing the same. She has just completed 28 days of an open-ended hunger strike which began with her arrest on February 16. She is striking in protest against her arrest, method of interrogation, and strip search.

British Origins

The British were not content with the calamitous Balfour Declaration which led to the Palestinian catastrophe. They went further with their injustice with a set of unfair laws in Palestine which live on today.

The Israeli occupation forces found such measures to be perfectly suited for their needs, so they began to implement them immediately.

One of these is “administrative detention,” which allows for the detention of Palestinians for up to 6 months without a charge. Worse yet, the period can be repeatedly renewed, completely circumventing due process.

According to the Palestinian prisoner affairs ministry, Israeli military law explicitly sanctions administrative detention.

Initially, the law was sanctioned because orders for administrative detention were carried out under “emergency laws” promulgated by the British mandate in 1945. But in 1979, Israel passed a new law adopting the same powers as the emergency law.

A record number of administrative detainees were held during the first intifada. Between 1987 and 1994, 20,000 orders for administrative detention were issued.

During the second intifada (2000), Israeli military courts recorded more than 19,000 such detentions.

According to Amnesty International, Khader Adnan is one of over 300 Palestinians currently held in administrative detention, including one man held for over five years and 24 Palestinian Legislative Council members.

The Biggest Hunger Strike

In the last few days, the prison administrations at the Gilboa, Shatta, and Megiddo facilities carried out DNA tests on prisoners under threat of force.

This is one of the reasons why Palestinian prisoners have just put “the final touches on the biggest open-ended hunger strike to be witnessed in Israeli prisons. It will start in April,” according to Waed, who works for the Society for Detainees and Ex-Detainees.

According to the prisoners, the strike will be a decisive turning point and will go on until their demands are met.

One of their most important demands is an end to the policy of solitary confinement, particularly for those who have been subjected to isolation for a long time.

There are some other crucial complaints such as medical neglect, administrative detention, and visitation rights.

Visitors, for example, have to wait many months to obtain the approval of the occupation forces. Their family relationship and the minute details of visitors’ personalities are scrutinized.

However, things do not just end with an Israeli permit. Visitors must then contend with the arduous road to the prison, where family members are subjected to humiliating searches at Israeli checkpoints.

Prisons in the south, such as Ramon and Nafha, are a major nightmare for the people of Bethlehem and Hebron.

If they were to obtain a permit to visit, they know that they have to cross the Zahiriyya and al-Shamaa checkpoints south of Hebron.

Because of the deliberate humiliation of prisoners’ relatives, these checkpoints have become a flash point between the family members and the occupation soldiers.

According to eyewitness statements made to the prisoners affairs ministry by close family members: “The soldiers on these checkpoints search the families on purpose. They strip men and women naked. This generates widespread complaints among the families.”

The account continues by noting that “a number of people refuse the searches...so they cannot complete their trip, because these checkpoints are the gateways to the prisons in the south and the families have to go through them.”

Prisoners’ families in the areas of Bethlehem and Hebron announced that they will stop visiting their loved ones if this humiliating treatment continues.

Although more than one meeting has been held with the International Red Cross, one of the organizers of the visits who coordinate with the Israeli side, nothing has changed.

The representative of prisoners in Ramon, Jamal Al-Rajjoub, who is serving a life sentence, says: “Our dignity is more important to us than anything. We don’t want visits where our wives and sisters are humiliated.”

The Zahiriyya military checkpoint is a model for tens of checkpoints all over the occupied West Bank, where prisoners’ families are abused and humiliated.

These visits have become a harsh punishment for the families, a journey of bitterness and hardship.

Furthermore, a large number of these relatives, who spend long hours at the checkpoint, in extreme cold or heat, go back home after refusing to endure such prolonged misery.

Some have their permits torn up by the soldiers without any reason. The measures also make it impossible for the sick and elderly to visit prisoners.

One of the saddest stories is the one of prisoner Mounif Abu Atwan’s mother.

She was humiliated at the Zahiriyya checkpoint, suffered severe exhaustion, and fainted. She died right after her visit to her son.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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