Israel High Court Rejects Hunger Strikers' Appeal, but Advises Caution in Administrative Detentions

Justices Rubinstein, Sohlberg, and Dantzinger say Israel's use of administrative detentions is integral part of its fight against terror, adding, however, that the state should reduce its use to when it's absolutely necessary.

The High Court of Justice rejected on Monday the appeal of two Palestinians held under administrative detention against the legality of the measure, adding, however, that under certain circumstances, the state should consider taking steps to alter the way in which the detentions are currently undertaken.

Administrative detentions have come into increased public awareness in recent months following hunger-strike campaigns undertaken by hundreds of Palestinian inmates, and geared at protesting what they claim is the measure's illegality.

Supreme Court - Olivier Fitoussi
Olivier Fitoussi

Recently, two inmates who have been on hunger strike for over two months, Bilal Diyab and Ta'ir Halale, petitioned the High Court demanding to be freed from their months-long administrative detention.

On Monday, Supreme Court justices Elyakim Rubinstein, Noam Sohlberg and Yoram Dantzinger ultimately rejected the petition, saying that despite the fact that "administrative detension causes uneasiness in any judge, in occasions it is an absolute necessity in which the intelligence against the plaintiff is such that an exposure of it could harm its sources as well as its means of attainment."

However, the justices, referring to the policy of not exposing the detainees and their lawyers to sensitive information pertaining to his arrest, said the state should consider allowing that information to be passed on to those who qualify to certain criteria.

"It's possible that there's room to revisit – and this is said with much caution and with no 'bottom line' – notions that have come up in the past, [referring to] the possibility of giving access to the material to a jurist acceptable to the detainees, and who could be a former top civil jurist or judge," the justices added.

The justices added that such a step could "bring the discussion closer to the detainees' rights, without harming security," saying: "However, we're aware that the broader consequences aren't in our full awareness and are not setting anything in stone."

"Administrative detention is an aberration in the judicial field, and thus, no one can deny, must be used as little as possible, even if we don't remember that it's used in the world at large, and mainly because we do not forget that Israel regularly fights terror and those who seek to harm it from many directions," they added, saying: "The state should not have to apologize for securing its own safety."

Speaking of the recent wave of hunger strikes among Palestinian detainees, the justices wrote in their ruling that "hungers strikes cannot serve as a element in a decision on the very validity of administrative detentions, since that would be confusing the issue."

In response to the justices' ruling, the appellants' lawyer Juad Bulus said that the decision was "unfortunate, in which one can see that the justices are convinced that administrative detentions are a severe act."

Bulus added that the justice's conclusion should have been their just and honest release, and not to leave the issues vague and by recommending to release them at the end of their administrative detention."

The court's ruling came after last week, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch was said to indicate that Israel should reduce its use of administrative detention against Palestinian suspects.

According to a senior official, Aharonovitch's remarks were made during a special meeting he convened to discuss the hunger strikes on Tuesday, when he said "we have to make sure that were making suitable use [of administrative detention], according to need."