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Israel 'doubles' administrative detainees during arrest campaign

June 23, 2014 4:35 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 17, 2015 5:28 P.M.)
Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth following clashes that erupted during a demonstration in Hebron. (AFP/File Hazem Bader)
By: Charlie Hoyle

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's military has fast-tracked over 100 administrative detention orders during a mass arrest campaign launched 10 days ago, a Palestinian prisoners group said Monday, nearly doubling the number of Palestinians held without charge.

As of Monday, 104 administrative detention orders have been confirmed by the Addameer prisoner rights group, with the number set to increase significantly over the coming days.

The group had documented 77 administrative detention orders as of last Thursday, with 27 more confirmed on Monday, an advocacy coordinator told Ma'an.

Most of the orders, lasting between three to six months, were issued by a judge at Ofer military court on the recommendations of the Israeli Shin Bet, with the majority of detainees affiliated to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

All of those sentenced were detained as part of a mass operation by Israeli forces in the West Bank which has seen 471 Palestinians, including 11 parliamentarians, detained in over 400 targeted raids on homes and civil society organizations.

"Since the disappearance of the settlers we've seen a clear form of collective punishment, not only in arrests, but with raids, killings, injuries, and so forth," Gavan Kelly, Addameer's international advocacy coordinator, told Ma'an.

Israel is using the disappearance of the three youths as an excuse to crush Hamas, Kelly says, noting the timing of the large-scale operation only weeks after a Palestinian unity government was announced and months before expected Palestinian elections.

"When you consider everything that is going on, for Israel to say that the arrests are related to the missing settlers is nonsense," he added.

Around one-quarter of the 471 Palestinians arrested since last week have been sentenced to administrative detention, and Addameer expects more military orders for detention without trial to be issued in the coming week.

"We expect this to continue, we don't see this ending anytime soon, but when and how we don't know. What we are appealing for is international pressure on Israel," Kelly said.

On Sunday, human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, sent a letter to the heads of the Israeli security and military establishment to demand that they refrain from "collectively punishing" the Palestinian population and violating their "basic human rights."

Detention without trial 'en-masse' as hunger strikers protest policy

Addameer said the systematic use of administrative detention in the ongoing arrest campaign is "alarming" given the number of prisoners on hunger strike to protest the policy.

Issuing administrative detention orders "en-masse" since the disappearance of the three youths is "in direct violation of the strict parameters established by international law," the group said, urging the international community to immediately condemn the "arbitrary arrest and detention campaign."

Since April 24, some 125 Palestinian prisoners have been refusing meals as part of the longest hunger strike in Palestinian history against Israel's policy of holding Palestinians in custody indefinitely without charge or trial.

Hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners have posed a constant challenge over the past two years to Israel's policy of detention without trial, with not a single day passing since 2011 when a Palestinian prisoner has not been on hunger strike.

Over 50 prisoners released in the 2011 swap deal for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit have been rearrested in the current campaign and seven have had their release canceled, meaning their previous long-term sentences could be reimposed later this week.

Military Order 186, which was introduced in 2009, allows an Israeli military committee to sentence prisoners released in swap deals based on secret evidence, which is likely to be used against those rearrested in the current campaign.

Kelly says Israel is using administrative detention as its "only option" in the ongoing detention campaign in light of "no evidence whatsoever" in charging prisoners for a crime.

"It (the current arrest campaign) just proves that Israel was planning for something like this a long time ago by introducing Article 186," Kelly added.

Commenting on the use of administrative detention over the past 10 days, human rights organizations said in a letter that "it is hard not to question if there is really an immediate, essential military need that entailed the swift detention without trial of dozens of people."

More than 5,300 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails. Of these, just under 200 were being held under administrative detention before the most recent orders were issued.
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