Editorial

Endless Detention

Israeli jurists and academics should speak out against the military courts' free hand with administrative detention orders, which allow Palestinians to be held without trial and can be renewed indefinitely

Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar walks with Israeli-Arab lawmaker Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, an alliance of four small Arab-backed parties, after her release from an Israeli prison at Jabara checkpoint near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, Friday, June 3, 2016.
Majdi Mohammed, AP

Last week the detention without trial of Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar was extended by an additional six months. In July, a year after serving 14 months in prison — she had been convicted of incitement and of membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — she was rearrested and placed under administrative detention for six months.

In administrative detention there is no indictment, the allegations are unknown to the detainee and his right to defend himself from them is nonexistent. Administrative detention has no time limitation. Six months from now, the head of the army’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Roni Numa, could sign an additional detention order for Jarrar, and then another and another.

Theoretically, Israel could detain her without trial until the end of her life. Jarrar is one of eight Palestinian MPs being held now by Israel without trial, and not for the first time, and one of around 460 Palestinians who are in administrative detention, not knowing when their imprisonment will end.

There’s no question: Jarrar and the other administrative detainees oppose the Israeli rule that has been forced on them and look forward to its end. But even according to military law, disgust with the occupation is not a security offense. If the military establishment had even the slightest evidence of concrete offenses ostensibly committed by Jarrar, it wouldn’t hesitate to subject her to a long and exhausting trial once again.

Administrative detention is supposedly a preventive measure, based on the claim that the detainee intends to violate the law in the future. International law permits the occupying country to place residents of the occupied territory in administrative detention only under rare and exceptional circumstances. But Israel’s use of this order is not rare and exceptional. It is used as security cover for political silencing.

A military judge is scheduled to examine Jarrar’s new administrative detention order within several days. The judge can uphold the order, cancel it or reduce its duration. According to figures submitted to B’Tselem by the office of the army spokesman, 3,909 administrative detention orders that were issued between 2015 and the end of July 2017, more than half — 2,441 (62.4 percent) — were extensions of the detention period for a person who was already under administrative detention. Only 48 of the orders (1.2 percent) were canceled by a military judge.

The small number of cancellations indicates that there is no solid basis for the hope that a military judge will overturn the arrest warrant of the 54-year-old political activist. But there is room to ask the law schools, the Israel Bar Association, judges and even historians and sociologists to intervene. They must make themselves heard and remind Israeli society that denying a person’s freedom without evidence and without a right to defense is one of the characteristics of dictatorships. Only if the voices of these professionals and social figures are heard will generals and military judges stop signing unlimited detention orders so easily.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.