Critics blast Israel’s practice of holding Palestinians on secret evidence, without charge or trial.
“For the last 50 years, Israeli authorities have been using administrative detention as a substitute for criminal proceedings in cases where there’s not enough evidence [for formal proceedings].”
— Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa
At first glance, a legislator, a circus performer and an NGO worker might not appear to have much in common. But all three Palestinians are former or current political prisoners who have been subjected to an obscure legal procedure called administrative detention, which allows Israel to imprison people without charge or trial for an indefinite amount of time.
Israeli authorities have been using this procedure for more than half a century, basing it on secret evidence. The Palestinian Prisoners Society, a detainee support group, noted a sharp rise in administrative detentions in August, with more Palestinians held without trial than during any other month this year. The rise, to 84 detentions, came amid increased tensions in the occupied West Bank after the stabbing of three Israeli settlers by a Palestinian on July 21.
As of September, there were 449 administrative detainees being held in prisons inside Israel, almost all of them Palestinian, according to data provided to rights group Hamoked by the Israel Prison Service.
“Administrative detention is the worst of all possible worlds because all the evidence is secret,” Sari Bashi, the Israel/Palestine advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera. “We would expect administrative detention to be the rarest as opposed to being standard practice. There are about 500 people in administrative detention. That’s not an exceptional number.”