Since 1 January 2022, all the Palestinians in Israeli administrative detention have been boycotting the military court proceedings in their cases. No Israeli official has addressed their concerns, and the courts continue to hear the detention orders as usual. Since the boycott began, the courts have heard dozens of cases – in the absence of the detainees and their legal counsel. According to the Israel Prison Service, in last April the occupation has holding 579 Palestinians in administrative detention.
Administrative detained Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri (Photo: French Communist Party)
The boycott is intended to unmask the façade of judicial review regarding administrative detention orders. In these hearings, the detainees merely play the part of extras in a proceeding aimed at sanctioning their incarceration. The state’s choice to continue the hearings as usual reinforces this claim, demonstrating that the detainees’ physical presence in court is meaningless.
According to official military figures, the amount of administrative detention orders rejected by the courts is negligible. In the vast majority of cases, the judges unwaveringly accept the military commander’s discretion, at most slightly shortening the length of the detention:
From the beginning of 2009 through 2013, a total of 3,996 administrative detention orders were issued for Palestinians. Of the orders heard by the courts during that time, 2,422 (about 60%) were authorized and 1,052 (about 26%) were shortened with no restriction placed on their extension. Another 99 orders (2.5%) were rejected, 196 (5%) were shortened and their extension restricted, and 214 (5.3%) were authorized and their extension restricted.From the beginning of 2015 to the end of July 2017, a total of 3,909 administrative detention orders were issued for Palestinians. Of the orders heard by the courts during that time, 2,953 (about 75%) were authorized and 390 (about 10%) were shortened with no restrictions placed on their extension. Another 48 orders (1.2%) were rejected, 181 (4.6%) were shortened and their extension restricted, and 320 (8.1%) were authorized and their extension restricted. At the end of August 2020, Israel was holding 355 Palestinians in administrative detention, 134 of them for half a year to a year (i.e., their detention had been extended at least once) and 54 for more than a year (i.e., their detention had been extended at least twice).
The decision to place a Palestinian in administrative detention is made by the regional military commander – without indictment or trial. Under the military law that applies in the occupied West Bank, a person can be administratively detained for six months. However, the order can be extended indefinitely, so the detention is effectively unlimited and detainees never know when they will be released. Individuals held in administrative detention must be brought before a military judge within eight days – either of the original detention order or of its extension.
According to B’Tselem, “In doing so, the judges completely ignore the fact that Israel’s use of administrative detention renders it unlawful. In violation of the restrictions placed by international law, Israel makes routine, extensive use of administrative detention. Over the years, it has placed thousands of Palestinians behind bars without charging them, without telling them what they are accused of, without disclosing the alleged evidence to them or to their lawyers, and without informing them when they will be released.”
“Administrative detention is a cruel measure that the Israeli regime uses extensively and unlawfully. For the detainees, the hardship of being incarcerated in harsh prison conditions and being cut off from one’s family, friends and daily life is compounded by unbearable uncertainty – regarding both the reason for the detention and the date of release, B’Tselem said.