Legacy of injustice: Israel's 'admin detention' policy
Ever since Britain’s Palestine Mandate, Palestinian resisters have faced threat of detention without charge or trial

According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, an NGO that tracks detained Palestinians, more than 370 Palestinian prisoners are currently languishing in jail under Israel’s policy of "administrative detention”.

Israel’s policy of "administrative detention”, which allows suspects to be held without trial or charge for renewable six-month periods, predates the establishment of the self-proclaimed Jewish state.

It was first employed by the British during the Palestine Mandate period (1922-1948) to arrest rebellious Palestinians without having to bring any evidence against them.

Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the Israeli authorities, too, have found the mandate-era policy a useful means of detaining opponents of the ongoing occupation of historical Palestine.

In the policy’s current form, occupation authorities can base detentions on information ostensibly gathered on the suspect by the Israeli intelligence apparatus – access to which is denied to the suspect and his or her lawyers.

Administrative detention is generally applied on the order of Israeli military leaders in the occupied Palestinian territories and based on recommendations by Israel’s intelligence apparatus.

Despite the absence of public evidence brought against administrative detainees, detentions can nevertheless be repeatedly renewed for six-month periods.

Over the years, Israel has used administrative detention to hold numerous Palestinians without charge, including members of parliament, prominent academics and other well-known political and social figures.

Israel has continued the policy with apparent impunity, despite the fact that international treaties and conventions – not to mention basic legal tradition – prohibit the arrest of individuals without trial.

Such an arbitrary form of detention is generally seen as a serious breach of the individual's rights, which – under normal circumstances – would allow the detained to sue for compensation.


Nevertheless, since the country’s inception, Israel’s use of the policy has continued unabated.

Following the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the number of Palestinian administrative detainees increased markedly before falling again in the late 1970s.

Israel’s use of the policy spiked again in 1987 upon the eruption of the First Palestinian Intifada (uprising), during which thousands of members of the anti-occupation resistance were detained.

In 1997, a concerted campaign against Israel’s use of administrative detention made some headway, but the policy came back with a vengeance following the eruption of the Second Intifada in late 2000.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, the number of administrative detention orders reached as many as 18,000 both during the First Intifada (1987-1994) and the Second Intifada (2000-2007).

The years that saw the most cases of administrative detention were 1988, 2003 and 2007, each of which saw the Israeli authorities issue between 2,000 and 4,000 administrative detention orders, according to the NGO.

Following Palestinian legislative polls in 2006, which were swept by resistance movement Hamas, a total of 37 Palestinian MPs were put in administrative detention by Israel, along with three cabinet ministers from Gaza’s Hamas-led government.

Until now, two Palestinian MPs – Mohamed al-Natsha and Mohamed Badr – remain in administrative detention in Israel.

Israel has also put many prominent Palestinian academics in administrative detention, including Prof. Ahmad Qatamesh, who spent more than eight years in prison, and Prof. Gassan Thaouqan, who remains in jail until now following eight years in detention.

Hunger strikes

Khedr Adnan, a leader of Palestine’s Islamic Jihad movement, waged a famous 66-day hunger strike in 2012 to protest his continued confinement under administrative detention. He was eventually joined in his strike by more than 30 other Palestinian detainees.

Later, a total of 130 administrative detainees waged a 63-day hunger strike, forcing Israel to promise to "reconsider” its administrative detention policy – a promise it has yet to carry through on.

Earlier this year, Adnan waged a second hunger strike – this time for 55 days – that eventually forced Israel to release him in July.

Mohamed Allan, a 31-year-old lawyer from the West Bank and a reported member of Islamic Jihad, is the latest Palestinian hunger-striker to win his release from administrative detention.

Following a 65-day hunger-strike, during which he slipped into a coma several times, the Israel Supreme Court last week finally ordered his release.


In a notable precedent earlier this month, Israel ordered that a Jewish extremist be placed in administrative detention – a policy until now reserved for Palestinians – for carrying out alleged acts of violence.

Meir Mordechai, an 18-year-old Jewish settler, was slapped with six months of administrative detention for allegedly carrying out an attack in June on a historical church.

The move came amid an international outcry following the death of an 18-month-old Palestinian baby who was burned to death in an arson attack by suspected Jewish extremists.

Last Modified: 2015-08-24 09:31:21
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