Since the beginning of the illegal occupation of West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza (the Occupied Palestinian Territories or OPT), over 700,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel.*
This is approximately 20 percent of the population of the OPT.
Over 40% of the male population of the OPT has been imprisoned.
On 30 November 2010, the Israeli authorities held 5741 prisoners and detainees on that day. 4652 were serving sentences, 162 were detained, 3 were detained under legal combatant laws, 719 were detained until the conclusion of legal proceedings, and there were 205 administrative detainees. The data excludes those held on criminal counts.
In December 2010, 30 children under the age of 16 and 180 children between 16 and 18 were held in custody by the Israeli security forces. Palestinian children under the age of 18 are considered adults in violation of Israeli law and in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of The Child.
There has been a decline in the number of political prisoners held in 2010 over previous years, particularly those held in administrative dentention. However, this does not change the injustices inflicted by the legal system in the OPT, which criminalises political views and expression in violation of international laws as well as Israeli law within the Green Line.
The legal system under which these men, women and children are detained and imprisoned is certainly different to that in Israel and more properly resembles a police state or martial law. The military authorities of the OPT set the regulations under which Palestinians must live. Notice of new military regulations is not given and only known when implemented. The military commander is able to make new military regulations at whim. According to Miftah:
The military tribunals that try Palestinians are located within Israeli military centers in the Occupied Territories, and a panel of three judges appointed by the military presides over the cases. These tribunals usually lack governance by legally trained judges and rarely fall within the required international standards of fair trial.
They are not informed of the reason for their arrest, nor are they told where they will be taken. Physical abuse and humiliation of the detainee by Israeli forces is common. Based on numerous sworn affidavits, detainees have reported that they have been submitted to attempted murder, rape, thrown down stairs while blindfolded, amongst many other forms of physical abuse. During the arrest, detainees have often been forced to strip in public before being arrested. Family members have also been forced to remove their clothes in house to house arrest campaign raids.
Palestinian prisoners are now removed from the OPT to prisons and detention centers within the Green Line, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Conventions (esp. articles 31-33). They are often held in unhygenic and unsanitary conditions, and their families have often are unable to visit them due to travel restrictions. Detainees can be denied access to an attorney and according to a recent study, up to 90% of detainees interrogated by Shin Bet are not allowed to consult a lawyer even when they are legally permitted to do so.
Those placed under administrative detention are arrested under Military Order 1226 which allows detention for security reasons for 6 months. Just before expiration, the 6 months are extended again and this can occur indefinitely.
Detainees and prisoners are also subjected to various forms of torture such as:
Routine: sleep deprivation, shabeh (position abuse), in which detainees are shackled to a chair in painful positions, squeezing of handcuffs, beatings, slaps, kicks, physical and psychological threats and humiliation;
Special methods: the body tied in a contorted and extremely painful position, pressure on different parts of the body, strongly shaking the detainee after being shackled for a long period of time, head covered with a filthy, soiled sack, strangulation and other means of suffocation, pulling of hair, multiple humiliations;
Inside the cells: sleep deprivation, handcuffed to the bed, exposure to extreme temperatures, prolonged and continuous exposure to artificial light, solitary confinement, tear gas inside the cells, inhuman detention conditions. See here and here.
The following is one child's story of arrest and administrative detention. Emad Al-Ashhab was 17 years old when he left Hebron with his father on a journey on 21 February, 2010 to visit the Bedouin area of Al-Khan al-Ahmar between the Israeli settlements Maale Adoumim and Kfar Adumim. At 9:30am they reached the Container Checkpoint between Bethlehem and Ramallah by bus.
Eventually, the soldiers stopped Emad’s bus. They asked to see all passengers’ identity cards. After a few minutes they asked Emad to get off the bus and without providing any explanation, they took him to a provisional detention room located at the checkpoint. Emad’s father waited three hours without being informed of the reasons for his son’s detention. Each time he made an attempt to inquire about his son’s well-being, the soldiers ignored his questions. Eventually, at approximately 12:30 p.m., Emad’s father decided to leave the Container Checkpoint and continue towards his work to alert a human rights lawyer of his son’s arrest.
Emad was kept, without food or water, in the provisional detention room at the Container Checkpoint until 1:00 p.m. During this time, he was not allowed to use the bathroom once. He was told to wait in a chair with both his feet and hands shackled. At 1:00 p.m., Emad was transferred to a different location but was not informed where. In an affidavit given to Addameer attorney Anan Odeh, Emad reported that during the transfer to the undisclosed location the Israeli soldiers covered his face with a woolen bag and beat him with a stick all over his body while both his hands and feet remained shackled. The soldiers also burnt his hand with cigarettes while they tightened the shackles around his wrists. From the first undisclosed location, Emad was then transferred to a second detention center, but again was not informed of its name or location. Later that evening Emad was transferred for a third time, and at approximately 7:00 p.m., he arrived in Etzion Detention and Interrogation Center near Bethlehem. At this point, he was allowed to use the bathroom for the first time all day.
Emad was held at Etzion for five days; during this period he was also taken to Ofer Military Base near Ramallah for interrogation sessions. Officers from the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) questioned him during these sessions about his political affiliations, but Emad denied all of the interrogators’ suspicions. Under the Israeli military orders that govern the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), membership in an organization – be it a political party or a charitable organization – that is declared illegal by the Israeli military commander is considered an offense and is classified as a "hostile terrorist activity"....On the fifth day of his interrogation, Emad was handed his first administrative detention order, informing him that he would be held without charge or trial.
Emad since had 4 renewals of his adminsitrative detention order with no charges laid against him. He has seen his family rarely and has not received the physiotherapy treatment necessary for Erb's Palsy, a condition he has suffered since birth. His current order is due to expire on 4 February 2011 when it will either be renewed or he will be released.
Emad is one of thousands who have not committed a crime yet are treated like criminals or worse. He has no blood on his hands yet he has spent almost a year in prison. While many Palestinians are detained for their activities (being a PLC member, protesting land and resource theft, political activity against the occupation) Emad's crime appears to be just being Palestinian and knowing Palestinians.
I would like Israel and Israelis to see the perverse logic of their actions towards occupied Palestinians. Before any peace can be made, Israel must decriminalize Palestinian political speech and activity. It must make working for Palestinian rights acceptable and not subject to military arrest, trial and detention. By continuing this aspect of the occupation, Israel sends the message to Palestinians that their desires and rights are not valid or legitimate. That Israeli security is a far greater need than justice for Palestinians. To continue to frame the subjugation of Palestinians as a security issue is to misunderstand the security situation that Israel finds itself in with regard to the Palestinians and it privileges the security needs of Israelis over political and human rights of Palestinians.
Note*The Israeli authorities no longer provide data on the total number of prisoners held but only the statistics on prisoners held on a certain day each month.
About this series:
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