Israel detains more than 600 without charge or trial

(Jerusalem) Israel detains more than 600 people without charge or trial, the highest number since 2016, an Israeli human rights group announced Monday.

Posted yesterday at 5:26 PM.

Joseph Krauss
Associated Press

Israel’s government says it is using so-called “administrative detentions” to prevent attacks and keep dangerous fighters in prison without revealing key classified information.

For their part, Palestinians and defense organizations are denouncing an illegal system that violates the right to a fair and equitable trial within a reasonable time. Some of them are said to have been deprived of their liberty for months or even years without any evidence being brought against them.

The Israeli organization HaMoked, which collects public data on people in detention, says 604 people were in administrative detention in May. Almost all of these people are Palestinians, while administrative detention is very rarely used against Jews.

HaMoked counts 2,441 Palestinians serving prison terms after convictions in a military court. In addition, 1,478 other detainees are being deprived of their liberty for questioning as they are awaiting trial or currently on trial.

Israel has been the target of a series of attacks in recent weeks. These incidents resulted in at least 15 deaths. In response, the state conducted several operations in the occupied West Bank with the aim of making arrests to prevent further attacks. These military interventions led to violent demonstrations and shootings.

At least 29 Palestinians have been killed, according to a tally by The Associated Press. The majority of the victims were killed after participating in attacks or during clashes with Israeli forces. However, an unarmed woman and two people who appeared to be only witnessing the scene were also killed.

Israel hadn’t counted that many “administrative detainees” since October 2016, during a previous wave of violence involving stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks by Palestinians.

“Administrative detention will only be used if the security forces have credible and solid information that the detainee poses a threat and there is no other way to deal with this threat,” the Israeli military justified in a press release.

Israel ensures that any administrative detention is subject to judicial review. Detainees can appeal to the Military Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Israel. Advocacy organizations point out, however, that the courts largely leave it to security institutions.

For HaMoked director Jessica Montell, violence does not justify the incarceration of hundreds of people without charge for months or even years.

“It’s like we have an administrative detention factory that goes way beyond what could be justified for an international tribunal,” she described. International law allows preventive detention only in rare cases and for a limited period of time.

Among those detained, some may be dangerous combatants, but others may simply be victims of misidentification. For example, a teenager with a rare neuromuscular disease spent more than a year in administrative detention.

“We have no idea what they are suspected of and many of them have no idea what the charges against them are because it is all based on classified evidence,” she Montell.

Several Palestinians in administrative detention have gone on long hunger strikes to protest their imprisonment. Some of them subsequently developed chronic diseases. As a means of pressure, the “administrative” detainees and their lawyers have been boycotting the proceedings of the Israeli military tribunal since the beginning of the year. The courts should therefore keep their hearings out of their presence, according to another Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, revealed.

The West Bank has been under Israeli military occupation since it was captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. The Palestinians claim this area as most of their ultimate state.

The nearly three million inhabitants of the Palestinian territory are subject to the Israeli military justice system, while the nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers living among them have Israeli citizenship and are subject to the civil courts.

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