Israel Must Promptly Release Palestinians Held Under Laws That Deprive Right to Fair Trials

Press Release
June 6, 2012

Israel Must Promptly Release Palestinians Held Under Laws That Deprive Right to Fair Trials

Report Shows Prisoners Tortured, Denied Adequate Medical Treatment and Otherwise Ill-treated

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) – In a new report today that outlines torture, inadequate medical treatment and other ill treatment in Israel’s prisons, Amnesty International called on Israel to promptly release all Palestinians held under military orders in which individuals can be imprisoned indefinitely without being charged or tried – a serious violation of international law. The human rights organization urged Israel to end the practice of “administrative detention,” which is unjustly depriving hundreds of Palestinians of their freedom along with their right to a fair trial.

The report, Starved of Justice: Palestinians Detained Without Trial by Israel, documents a catalogue of human rights violations associated with the practice of “administrative detention,” including torture, cruel and degrading treatment, inadequate medical treatment in prison, and deportation of prisoners after their release.

Amnesty International urged Israel to end the system, saying the laws were used in some cases to suppress legitimate and peaceful activities of activists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“Israel should consign administrative detention to the dustbin of history where it belongs. Like other governments, it has been too willing to jail people indefinitely without charge or trial. It is time for Israel to end this unjust practice,” said Sanjeev Bery, Amnesty International advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa in Washington D.C.

Under the system, prisoners do not know why they are being detained or how long. And many are denied visits with families, held in solitary confinement or forcibly transferred or deported after release.

“These practices violate Israel's obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” said Bery. “Israel has a duty to uphold due process and fair trial rights, and to take effective action to end torture and other ill-treatment of detainees.”

By the end of April there were at least 308 Palestinian administrative detainees, among them 24 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), including its speaker, Aziz Dweik. Human rights defenders such as Walid Hanatsheh and at least four journalists, professors, university students and academic staff, were also among those behind bars.

The prolonged hunger strikes of administrative detainees such as Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi put the issue of administrative detention under the international spotlight earlier this year.

Their non-violent protest was followed by a mass hunger strike which began April 17 and included an estimated 2,000 other Palestinians in Israeli prisons, many of whom are either serving prison sentences or awaiting trial.

Amnesty International's report also documents measures taken by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) against prisoners and detainees who went on hunger strike, with detainees describing ill-treatment by medically trained IPS staff.

Following a deal brokered by Egypt, the mass hunger strike was suspended May 14. However, Palestinian soccer professional Mahmoud al-Sarsak, from Gaza, is now more than 70 days into his hunger strike which began in March.

Al-Sarsak’s protest is against his continuing detention without charge or trial for almost three years. His life is currently in grave danger as he remains held at the IPS medical center, which cannot offer the specialized medical treatment required by patients in such critical condition.

Under the May 14 deal, Israel agreed to end solitary confinement for 19 prisoners – held in isolation for up to 10 years – and lift a ban on family visits for prisoners from the Gaza, among other things.

Despite many media reports suggesting that the Israeli authorities had agreed as part of the deal to release administrative detainees at the end of their current orders unless significant new information was received, Amnesty International found Israel was conducting business as usual on the practice of administrative detention. Amnesty International said it believes that Israel has renewed at least 30 administrative detention orders and issued at least three new ones since this deal was struck, and family visits for Gazan prisoners have still not started.

Amnesty International recognizes that Israeli authorities have a duty to protect everyone in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories from threats to their lives and physical integrity.

“But they must do so in a manner that respects human rights,” said Bery.

Amnesty International campaigns against administrative detention throughout the world. In recent years Amnesty International has documented abusive systems of administrative detention – and called for an end to administrative detention – in countries including Sri Lanka, Egypt, China, and India (Jammu and Kashmir).

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.