Int’l pressure builds: Human Rights Watch calls for end to ‘abusive’ administrative detention of 178 prisoners

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International pressure is building against the Israeli security narrative. Human Rights Watch yesterday called on Israel to end the “abusive practice” of administrative detention, an extreme measure it is now using against 178 Palestinians, some of whom are among the hunger strikers capturing world attention.

Israel should immediately charge or release Palestinians detained without charge or trial for prolonged periods and stop denying them and their lawyers access to evidence of their alleged crimes.

On February 22, 2013, an Israeli military court extended the detention without charge of Ja`afar Izz el-Din and Tarek Qa`dan, both held since November 2012 when Israeli forces arrested them in the West Bank. Military courts have refused to allow the men or their lawyers to see the evidence being used to justify their continuing detention. Other detainees, including Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawna, are due to face a military committee that can order their re-imprisonment on the basis of secret evidence.

These Palestinian detainees have for months been protesting fundamental due process violations by refusing food. Lawyers who have visited them in detention say they are suffering grave health consequences as a result of their prolonged hunger strikes. Families of some of the hunger strikers have told Human Rights Watch that Israeli authorities have refused to allow them to visit the men.

“It is outrageous that Israel has locked these men up for months without either charging them with crimes or allowing them to see the evidence it says it has against them,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.  “The detainees evidently feel they have to put their lives in jeopardy through hunger strikes so that Israel will end these unlawful practices.”…

The laws of occupation, which Israel is bound to respect as the occupying power in the West Bank, permit the use of administrative detention only in exceptional circumstances. Article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention provides that an occupying power may legitimately order the detention of an individual only “for imperative reasons of security.” The International Committee of the Red Cross, in its “Commentary” to article 78, stresses that the “exceptional character” of such measures “must be preserved.”  Israel is currently holding about 178 Palestinians as “administrative detainees” and has long used this measure to imprison without trial Palestinians it suspects of security offenses.  

“Israel’s regular use of administrative detention, at the least, inverts international law and turns the exception into the norm, at the cost of the fundamental right to due process,” Whitson said.

Oh and speaking of international attention, for once, Israelis aren’t leading this conversation with talk about security. From Barak Ravid at Haaretz:

The Palestinian uprising was written on Hollywood’s red carpet

While neither local documentary won an Oscar this year, the hoopla surrounding the films helped wake Israelis up to the ugly reality of the occupation.

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