Al Mezan Center for Human Rights is deeply concerned about the situation of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons following recent increases in the frequency of violations of their fundamental rights. As these violations are rooted in Israeli legislation, military orders, and court decisions, Palestinian detainees are deprived of the legal protections guaranteed to persons deprived of their liberty by international human rights law.
According to Al Mezan’s follow-up, on Tuesday, 13 October 2020, 32 Palestinians held in custody at Ofar prison have begun an open-ended hunger strike in solidarity with Maher al-Akhras, 49, who has been on strike for 79 days protesting against his administrative detention. Al-Akhras was hospitalized in Kaplan Medical Center after his health condition worsened. Despite the frequent requests submitted by his lawyer to the Israeli Supreme Court asking for his immediate release (the most recent of which was on 12 October 2020), the court dismissed the requests and recommended his release on 26 November 2020.
Israeli authorities continue to make extensive use of its administrative detention policy against Palestinian detainees. According to statistics published by Palestinian civil society organizations working on prisoners’ rights, the number of Palestinian detainees held in Israeli prisons has reached 4,400, while the number of administrative detainees has reached 350. Notably, the Israeli Supreme Court has approved and extended their administrative detention without taking into account the minimum guarantees encompassed under Article 14(3)(a) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), that holds that a detainee must be informed of the charges against him/her to allow for the preparation of the defense arguments and submission of supporting evidence.
Al Mezan emphasizes that the ongoing Israeli policy of administrative detention constitutes a grave breach of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law, in particular, the ICCPR, the applicability of which in the occupied Palestinian territory was affirmed by the International Court of Justice on 9 July 2004. Notably, such policy allows the Occupying Power to hold Palestinians in custody without charges, thus contradicting the essence of the right to a fair trial and freedom from arbitrary detention. In addition, the perpetuation of this policy confers on the judiciary the authority to indefinitely extend administrative detention orders, effectively imposing a lifetime deprivation of liberty.
Al Mezan stresses that international law affords special protection to detainees, both as regards to judicial guarantees, such as habeas corpus and the right to a fair trial, as well as with regards to health, social and cultural rights during the detention period. Therefore, not taking these provisions into account would leave prisoners without protection and would put the Occupying Power in serious contradiction with its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. Also, it would make it necessary for international enforcement mechanisms and bodies to monitor their implementation and fulfilment.
Al Mezan calls on the international community to uphold its moral and legal obligations towards the Palestinian people and to exert pressure on Israel, the Occupying Power,