Palestinians detained by Israel

Palestinians detained by Israel
15 August 2004 - 2 September 2004

Issued on 16 August 2004

Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967, over 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel. This forms approximately 20% of the total Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Considering the fact that the majority of those detained are male, the number of Palestinians detained forms approximately 40% of the total male Palestinian population.

As of 15 August 2004, there are approximately 7,500 Palestinian political prisoners being held in Israeli prisons. Over 750 of these are administrative detainees, held without charge or trial for indefinite periods of time. 380 of the political prisoners are aged 18 and under, 78 of whom are 16 years and under. There are 106 Palestinian female political prisoners, 20 of whom are mothers and 2 of whom gave birth in prison, with their children remaining in prison with them. Of the total 7,500 political prisoners, 3,800 are being held in civil prisons, with the remaining political prisoners held in Israeli military detention centers and prison camps.

The arrest and detention of Palestinians living within the OPT is governed by a wide-ranging set of military regulations that govern every aspect of Palestinian civilian life. There are approximately 1500 military regulations governing the West Bank and over 1400 governing the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military commander of the region issues military orders, and the issuance of new orders often remains unknown and become apparent when they are implemented, as the military commander may issue new military regulations at any moment.

Palestinians are tried within Israeli military courts located within Israeli military centers in the OPT. These military tribunals are presided over by a panel of three judges appointed by the military, two of who often do not have any legal training or background. These tribunals rarely fall within the required international standards of fair trial.

Israeli prisons and military detention camps are primarily located within the 1948 borders of Israel. There are a total of 5 interrogation centers, 6 detention/holding centers, 3 military detention camps, and about 20 prisons in which Palestinians from the OPT are held. The location of prisons within Israel and the transfer of detainees to locations within the occupying power's territory are illegal under international law and constitute a war crime. The Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly states that "Protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein." (Article 47) Most of the Palestinian Prisoners are being held in detention facilities located outside the OPT.

As a result of an arbitrary permit system which governs Palestinians movement within the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, and to and from the 1948 borders of Israel, family visits to detainees are often not possible, extremely infrequent, or impossible. Since the beginning of the current Intifada in September 2000, family visits have been prevented repeatedly and for long periods at a time.

Under Israeli military regulations a Palestinian can be detained for up to 8 days without the Israeli military informing the detainee of the reason for his/her arrest and without being brought before a judge. Between April and June 2002, this period of time was increased by Israeli military order 1500 to 18 days. Following or during the 8 days of detention, a detainee is sent to an interrogation center, charged with an offense, given an administrative detention order, or released.

A Palestinian detainee can be interrogated for a total period of 180 days, during which he/she can also be denied lawyer visits for a period of 60 days. During the interrogation period, a detainee is often subjected to some form of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment ranging in extremity, whether physical or psychological. The use of practices that constitute torture during interrogation has been legalized within the Israeli judicial system and permitted in individual cases in which the GSS deems a detainee a threat to state security or a "ticking bomb". In some instances, detainees have died while in custody as a result of torture. Confessions extracted through torture are admissible in court and/or military tribunal.

Administrative detention, arrest without charge or trial, has been used as a form of collective punishment by the Israeli military against Palestinians, illegal in this form under international law. For example, during the period of March 2002 to October 2002, Israeli occupying forces arrested over 15,000 Palestinians during mass arrest campaigns, rounding up males in cities and villages between the ages of 15 to 45. In October 2002, there were over 1,050 Palestinians in administrative detention.

Administrative detention is indefinitely renewable under military regulations. A detainee may be given an administrative detention order for a period of between 1 to 6 months, after which the order may be renewed again. Administrative detention is based on secret evidence brought forward during military tribunals, to which neither the detainee nor his/her lawyer have access to. One of the longest Palestinian administrative detainees remained in custody for over 8 years, without being charged with a crime.

Under military regulations in force in the OPT, a child over the age of 16 is considered an adult, contrary to the defined age of a child as under 18 in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory. In practice, Palestinian children may be charged and sentenced in military courts beginning at the age of 12. Between the age of 12-14, children can be sentenced for offences for a period of up to six months. For example, a child who is charged for throwing a stone can be sentenced to six months imprisonment. After the age of 14, Palestinian children are tried as adults. There are no juvenile courts and children are often held and serve their sentences in cells with criminal prisoners and are often not separated from adults, illegal under international law.

Prison conditions in Israeli military detention camps are inhumane. Detainees are held in overcrowded prison tents that are often threadbare and do not provide for adequate shelter against extreme weather, are not provided adequate food rations, neither in quantity nor quality, not provided with clean clothes or adequate cleaning supplies. Many of the detainees currently being held in military detention camps were injured during their arrest and have not been provided the necessary medical attention, in addition to those who suffer from chronic illnesses.

Palestinian lawyers from the OPT are not permitted any special travel privileges in order to defend their clients. They are subjected to the same travel restrictions as all Palestinians in the OPT. Those lawyers who are able to access detainees have extremely high case loads and are often subjected to strip searches and humiliated when visiting their clients

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