The indefinite detention of Khalida Jarrar is more rule than exception

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On June 16, an Israeli military court extended by four months an administrative detention order against Palestinian legislator Khalida Jarrar. The Ofer military court determined that Jarrar, a long-time human rights activist, poses a threat to the public, but the facts remain: no evidence has been presented against Jarrar, who has been imprisoned for a year without charge or trial; no person who is familiar with Jarrar and her work believes her detention is not politically motivated; no court in the world that abides by international justice standards would have convicted her (nor imposed an administrative detention order against her, and renewed it, and renewed it again.)

Jarrar was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) as a representative of the Marxist-Leninist ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’ (PFLP) in 2006. She had spent the twelve years prior to her election as Director of the Palestinian NGO Addameer, which supports Palestinian political prisoners in both Israeli and Palestinian prisons. Jarrar has been critical of the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination with Israel and its political arrests, and was instrumental in the bid for Palestinian membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

In April 2015, just days after Palestine formally obtained membership of the ICC, Jarrar was taken from her home by Israeli soldiers and held for six months under administrative detention, a practice in which detainees are held indefinitely without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence. In the occupied West Bank, where only the Palestinian population is subjected to Israeli military law, Israeli Military Order 1651 permits administrative detention orders for up to six months. These orders can be renewed repeatedly.

In the face of international pressure to either charge or release her, Ofer military court brought Jarrar up on 12 charges, which included allegations related to her membership and work with the PFLP, that she attended protests, gave interviews to journalists, advocated for the rights of Palestinian prisoners, and encouraged the abduction of Israeli soldiers. She was not allowed to see the evidence against her, nor make a defense, in violation of due process and fair trial guarantees.

In December 2015, she was sentenced to 15 months in prison, five years of probation and was ordered to pay a fine of 10,000 shekels (roughly $2,600). Jarrar served her sentence alongside 12-year-old Dima al-Wawi, thought to be the youngest Palestinian girl incarcerated in an Israeli prison. 

Jarrar was released early in June of 2016 (allegedly due to overcrowding at the prison) but was re-arrested and detained in July 2017 by Israeli forces, who again raided her home in the West Bank city of al-Bireh. She has been in prison since.

No evidence has been brought against Jarrar, and yet there is every chance that she could spend the rest of her life in the Israeli military detention system. In Israel, where mainstream political discourse is decidedly anti-democratic, the detention of Palestinians, including lawmakers, without charge or trial is an everyday occurrence.

There are, at present, 6,036 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons. Six are members of the PLC. Although international law prohibits the detention of people for their political beliefs, Palestinian activists and political leaders are routinely arrested in an effort to suppress Palestinian civil society activities and political self-determination. Israel has carried out numerous arrests of PLC members and revoked the residency permits of Jerusalemite PLC members, forcibly deporting them to the occupied West Bank.

One of the cases that drew global interest was the arrest of PLC member Marwan Barghouti in April of 2002. In a show of defiance against the court proceedings, Barghouti refused to accept the charges and recognize the legitimacy of the court. He was sentenced to five life sentences plus 40 years.

In 2006, Israeli forces abducted six Palestinian political prisoners from a Palestinian Authority prison in Jericho. Minutes after British and American monitors abandoned the prison, hundreds of heavily-armed Israeli soldiers staged a ten-hour military assault on Jericho prison, killing two people and injuring many others. PLC member and Secretary-General of the PFLP, Ahmad Sa’adat, was one of those abducted. He was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment and held in solitary confinement for three years from March 2008.

Palestinian civil society workers, lawyers, academics, activists, poets, artists, any and all those found or suspected to be involved in any form of resistance to Israel’s unlawful occupation, colonization and apartheid practices are also subjected to punitive measures.

Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was arrested in 2015 for posting a poem on Facebook titled “Resist, My People, Resist Them“. She has since spent two and a half years in prison and under house arrest. The Palestinian writer and Professor, Ahmad Qatamesh, who Amnesty International has declared a prisoner of conscience, has been jailed in eight of the last 25 years.

Currently in administrative detention is 32-year-old lawyer Salah Hamouri, a human rights defender and field researcher with Addameer. Hamouri, a Palestinian-French dual citizen, was taken from his home in a pre-dawn raid by Israeli forces on August 23rd, 2017. Israel has banned his wife, Elsa Lefort, from entering Palestine. She awaits June 30 when, after over 300 days in prison, her husband will either be released as scheduled, or condemned to another four or more months of administrative detention. The judgment, as ever, will be arbitrary.

Update: The advocates for Hamouri Facebook page reports today that his detention has been extended another three months.

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Indefinite detention drives home the fact that “the only democracy in the Middle East” is there by force and is really a military dictatorship and has always been that. Americans believe that Israel was established by UN charter. The reality on the ground and in blood and bones is that it was established by terrorist and military conquest. And it continues to be. Americans believe that the West Bank is just part of Israel and… Read more »