20 Israeli Citizens Jailed Without Trial in 2016

Most Israeli citizens under so-called 'administrative detention' are Arabs, the deputy attorney general tells a Knesset committee.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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An undated image of Nafha prison in southern Israel.
An undated image of Nafha prison in southern Israel.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Defense authorities have issued 20 administrative detention orders against Israeli citizens in the past year, most of them Arabs, Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri said on Monday.

The data came to light during a meeting of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which debated a government request to extend the defense minister's authority to utilize administrative detention and other restrictive orders against Israeli citizens, as reported by Haaretz last week.

The legislation under consideration would widen the scope of administrative detention orders and other restrictions used against Palestinians, and permit the defense minister to exercise such restrictions inside Israel as well.

The measure would permit the minister to limit a person's profession, deny them entry or exit to specific towns or cities, bar them from leaving the country or having contact with certain people, and impose “any other order or restriction necessitated by considerations of national security or the public safety.”

The bill would limit the duration of administrative detention orders to six months and other administrative orders to one year. But it would allow the defense minister to renew such orders indefinitely with court authorization.

Nizri, addressing the committee, said regarding the figures of current administrative arrests in Israel that "most of those detained are Arabs. I'll give you another scoop, most terrorism is Arab terrorism."

Shin Bet data reported at the session showed that in 2014 no such detention orders were issued against Israeli citizens but no precise data were reported about the number of such orders issued last year, though it was said that there were only a few.

Lawmaker Revital Sweid of the Zionist Union party stood out in opposition at the debate.

"Administrative detention orders are nearly a last resort. With all the logic there is to using this measure, I still feel as though we are using it too loosely and using administrative detention too routinely in extreme circumstances," Sweid said.

"I also wonder about the fact that the law leaves this decision solely to the defense minister's discretion."

Dov Kheinin of the Joint List quoted former justice minister Yaacov Shapira as having said that Nazi Germany also implemented emergency regulations such as those that exist in Israel.

"Perhaps the defense minister will also decide to deny a person access to the washroom? I hear that Lieberman is not interested in the presence of lawmakers from the Joint List. Now he could even block them from entering the Knesset," Kheinin said.

Attorney Dan Yakir, legal adviser to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said "the administrative measures detailed in the new legislation will not prevent a single administrative detention but will only widen the circle of people against whom various restrictions may be imposed.

"Hundreds of Palestinian administrative detainees should be a signal warning against using such draconian measures on a routine basis," Yakir said.

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