Shin Bet Cuts Use of Special Detention of Suspects by Half

Security service tells Knesset it has reduced its reliance on special detention authority granted last year.

The Shin Bet has halved its reliance on the special detention authority it was granted last year, the security service will tell a Knesset committee on Tuesday.

According to an internal Shin Bet report, the organization detained and questioned 245 Palestinians residing in Gaza in the past 11 months.

The data appear in a report the Shin Bet will submit to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Tuesday morning. The report lists 72 instances (30 percent of all detentions) in which the Shin Bet made use of its irregular arrest authority, which it gained via a temporary order approved last summer.

The data reveal a gradual decrease in the Shin Bet's use of the temporary order: 51 individuals were detained in the first half of 2006, as opposed to 21 cases in the second half. According to the order, which functions as a temporary law, the Shin bet is allowed to hold detainees for four days before they receive a hearing.

The order in question is a temporary provision designed to allow the Shin Bet to detain Gaza citizens even after the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and the subsequent abolition of military rule there by the Israel Defense Forces.

In addition, the temporary order enables the Shin Bet to exercise wider discretion regarding arrests and detentions of Palestinians than it had enjoyed under the regular law concerning arrests and detentions.

According to the temporary order, the Shin Bet may hold detainees for four days without a hearing if a senior Shin Bet officer states that interrupting the interrogation could significantly hinder the progress of the investigation. The order aims to counter imminent terrorist activity.

In theory, the order applies to any individual who is not a resident of Israel or the West Bank, but in practice it is only used against the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. However, even after the extension of the Shin Bet's authority regarding inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, the Shin Bet enjoys an even larger legal mandate in the West Bank.

The law also requires the Shin Bet to report to the committee every six months on the extent to which it has made use of the temporary order. However, the Shin Bet has failed to report to the committee on time, and will submit its report after 10 months; four months in arrears.