Then They Came for the Mobsters |

The Case Against Detention Without Trial

First Palestinians, then asylum seekers and now members of crime rings; the ease with which individuals can be jailed without due process proves how far we are from upholding human rights.

Aeyal Gross
Aeyal Gross
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Aeyal Gross
Aeyal Gross

When they placed the Palestinians under administrative detention, I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Palestinian. When they jailed asylum seekers for three years without trial, violated the High Court of Justice ruling ordering their release and devised a protocol enabling their arrest and detention without trial as criminal suspects, I didn't speak up because I wasn't an asylum seeker.

Now, when they seek to place members of crime organizations in administrative detention rather than following the norms of criminal prosecution, I'm not speaking up because I have no ties to a crime organization. And when they come to place me in administrative detention as a suspect in a crime I perhaps didn't even commit, no one will be left to speak up for me.

I paraphrase Martin Niemöller’s famous poem “First They Came for the Communists” as a reminder that custody without trial, now being proposed in the sphere of criminal law, is not new. In contrast to the detention of criminal suspects or defendants for the purposes of questioning or for the duration of legal proceedings, respectively, which is highly regulated, administrative detention lacks the guarantees provided by the criminal-justice process. It is a preventive measure, meant to enable the detention of an individual who poses a clear danger that cannot be eliminated in any other way, and should be used rarely and judiciously.

The wholesale use of administrative detention and custody without trial against Palestinians and asylum seekers, respectively, are warning signs. The idea that administrative detention can replace the protocols of criminal prosecution, which contain protections for the rights of suspects and defendants, is outrageous. In addition, experience teaches that administrative detention comes with the wide use of classified evidence that detainees cannot counter.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch's remark in connection to the proposal, “Enough with the hypocrisy and those human rights organizations,” shows the failure to assimilate the concept of human rights as a check on governmental power aimed at protecting every individual from arbitrary measures.

It should be remembered that administrative detention is incarceration without trial. It can lead to long-term imprisonment without the requirements of evidence needed for a criminal conviction. We should be reducing the use of this tool, not expanding it into the realm of criminal justice.

Yitzhak Aharonovitch attending a Public Security Ministry event last year.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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