A black flag flies over the administrative detention of Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar, which this week was extended by four months – on top of the year she has already spent in jail without trial. At her detention hearing last year, the allegations against Jarrar included membership in a terror organization (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and incitement. These suspicions are based on vague testimony according to which she encouraged the abduction of Israeli soldiers and attended conferences of the PFLP. Jarrar has not been allowed to see the evidence, if it exists, nor can she challenge it. To dispense with the euphemisms, Khalida Jarrar is a political prisoner.
The fact that Jarrar was thrown into jail for her political activity on behalf of the PFLP is a badge of shame for Israeli democracy. Administrative detention is a secret procedure in which only the judge is authorized to see the evidence. The accused and the public are expected to blindly trust the integrity of the judge, the credibility of the evidence and the honest intentions of the legal process.
Both the open court principle and the right to appeal are rendered null and void in this process. The judge’s role begins and ends with signing the detention order, thereby lending the appearance of a judicial procedure.
The duration of an administrative detention order is limited to six months, but it can be renewed repeatedly and indefinitely. All that’s needed to obtain an automatic extension is for the Shin Bet security service to declare, as it has in Jarrar’s case, that the detainee still poses a clear and present danger.
It’s not by chance that international law permits the use of administrative detention only in rare, extreme cases in which the detainee poses a genuine threat. In the absence of evidence that is transparent to the public, we can only hope that the Shin Bet is assessing in a professional manner the danger that releasing the detainee would pose, but there’s no way to know whether there is a foundation for this hope.
The wholesale use that the Shin Bet, the army and the military courts have made of administrative detentions over many years has resulted in the public’s indifference to this inhumane, unacceptable procedure and made it seem self-evident. This is precisely why the Israeli legal system’s intervention is required. It must take upon itself the battle to abolish, or at least restrict, the use of administrative detention.
Jarrar is an elected representative of her people. The fact that she’s a member of parliament ought to give her immunity from political charges. But when it comes to Palestinians, Israel thumbs its nose at diplomatic immunity and treats members of parliament the same way it treats every other Palestinian – that is, it views them first and foremost as terrorists.
If there is valid evidence against Jarrar, it must be made public. If not, she should be freed immediately.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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