As of May 2018, 440 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons without charge or trial, according to new data. Administrative detention orders can be renewed indefinitely, without any way for the prisoner to defend themselves in court.
By Yael Marom
Israeli authorities sent an average of 29 Palestinians a month to prison without charge or trial last year, according to new data provided by the Israel Prison service to B’Tselem. Over the past decade there was not a single month in which Israel held fewer than 150 Palestinians in administrative detention.
According to the data, as of May 2018, Israel was imprisoning 440 people in administrative detention, without charge or trial, among them two women and three minors.
Three of those people being held in administrative detention are currently on hunger strike, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club. One of them, 30-year-old Hassan Shuka, has reportedly been on hunger strike for 54 days. Another administrative detainee, Mahmoud Iyad, has reportedly been on hunger strike for 22 days, and a third, Anas Shadid, for nine days.
Administrative detention is a practice which Israel uses to detain Palestinians (and occasionally some Jews) without charge or trial — indefinitely.
Administrative detention orders are reviewed every six months, but the detainees are not told of what crimes they are being accused or shown the evidence against them. The result is that it is virtually impossible to defend oneself against an administrative detention order.
Under international law, administrative detention should only be used in the most extreme cases.
In most modern legal systems, police or prosecutors release suspects when they don’t have enough evidence to charge them with a crime. In Israel, especially when the suspect is Palestinian, prosecutors and security forces find other ways to keep them behind bars.
Several years ago, at the height of mass hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners, a senior Israeli security official confirmed that the state uses administrative detention in many cases out of laziness and when it just hadn’t bothered to collect enough evidence.
Then-public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovich recommended to security officials at the time that administrative detention be used “only if there is a need and not in all cases,” an implicit admission that the practice was being applied in far more cases than the exceptional, extreme circumstances in which international law permits its use.
In a number of high profile cases over the years, Israel has implicitly exposed once again that it is using administrative detention as a first, and not last resort.
Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man contributed to this report. Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where a longer version of this article was originally published in Hebrew.