Dozens of Israeli activists demonstrated Thursday evening outside the Shin Bet’s offices in Tel Aviv, demanding the internal security agency cease using administrative detention and torture, particularly against Palestinian minors.
To mark Human Rights Day, the protesters held a display in which several of them demonstrators were blindfolded and tied in various positions to resemble the torture Palestinians undergo at the hands of the Shin Bet. The protest was the first of its kind outside the agency’s offices.
According to human rights group B’Tselem, as of September 2020, Israel is holding 376 Palestinians, including two minors, in administrative detention. Israel uses administrative detention to indefinitely detain Palestinians (and on extremely rare occasions Jewish extremists) without charge or trial. Administrative detention orders, handed down by the IDF commander in charge of the occupied West Bank, are reviewed every six months, but the detainees are not told what crimes they are being accused of, nor shown the evidence against them.
According to lawyers who defend Palestinian detainees, administrative detentions are almost always based on “confidential material” handed over ex parte to the courts by the Shin Bet, to which the detainees themselves and their lawyers have no access. As a result, it is virtually impossible to defend oneself against an administrative detention order.
Administrative detention explained:
Under international law, administrative detention should only be used in the most extreme cases.
“We came here to protest against administrative detentions, which have been going on since 1967,” activist Sigal Avivi told +972. “Over the years, men, women and children have been arrested. “We are here because [Shin Bet] are working in the shadows. In the past, some students who tried to [protest] here were forced to leave. Our goal is to reach many people and be here and show how the Shin Bet is involved in all stages of administrative detention.”
“Administrative detention is based on confidential information usually collected by the Shin Bet,” said Sahar Francis, who serves as executive director of Addameer, a Ramallah-based NGO that provides legal assistance to Palestinian prisoners. “The intelligence is never disclosed to us as lawyers. The problem with administrative detention is that it is endless, the detainees are put in detention and do not know why they are there or when they will be released.”
“Detainees are being transferred to Shin Bet interrogations, which in many cases include torture,” read a statement published by protest organizers in the lead-up to the demonstration. “Systematic use of physical and mental torture, abuse, false reporting, spoliation of evidence, and irresponsibility are part of the past and present of the Shin Bet’s organizational culture. The Shin Bet’s brutal and violent interrogation methods are a mark of shame on the entire organization, not a specific investigator.”
Despite the decline in the numbers over the past two decades, Francis notes that administrative detention is still a common practice. “There are new orders every week as well as extensions of existing orders. Just this week we had a case of a man from Bethlehem who spent two years in administrative detention. The court decided to release him, and yet his detention was extended once again. The problem is that they can always claim that there is [new] intelligence, and we as lawyers do not know what they have, we are completely dependent on the judges [who are exposed to confidential information].
Administrative detention can also be used as a step that precedes “regular” detention or as a means to ensure Palestinians are kept behind bars, even if the military court orders them released. Such was the case with Amal Nakhleh, a 16-year-old Palestinian who is suspected of throwing stones and was arrested last month while on his way home from with shopping with friends. After the military judge ordered him released on bail, the military prosecution threatened to placed Nakhleh in administrative detention to make sure he remains in prison.
Nakhle recently underwent surgery to remove a tumor and suffers from an autoimmune disease that affects muscles and the ability to swallow and breathe. He needs regular medication and medical attention, and is at high risk from COVID-19.
The case of Maher Al-Akhras, a Palestinian went on hunger strike to protest his administrative detention, shed a spotlight on the one-sided and confidential intelligence handed over by the Shin Bet to Israel’s military judges. Al-Akhras ended his hunger strike after 103 days and was released on November 26. At the time of his arrest, Al-Akhras’ wife, Taghrid, described the difficulties of being imprisoned without trial: “My husband is under arrest for no reason. In the past, he was threatened with arrest and told they would destroy him. The purpose of the hunger strike is liberation.”
This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.