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Solitary confinement and administrative detention

January 25, 2014 at 4:18 am

Administrative detention provides a vehicle for the arrest of Palestinians where there is no genuine reason for them to be taken into custody, even under Israel’s draconian military occupation. Nobody sees the “evidence” provided by intelligence officers apart from the Israeli judge. The lawyers acting for the detainee can’t see what the evidence against their client is; in any case, it is probably fabricated by a spy. The intelligence service is not bothered by this as long as it has something to put before a judge and claim that the detainee “threatens the security of Israel”.

The judge does not ask the intelligence officer where he got his information, how he obtained it or how credible it is. Nor does he require the spy to appear in front of him for questioning. The contents of the secret file are trusted to be truthful and form the sole basis for a ruling which sees the detainee held for six months. The detention order can be renewed any number of times.

The Israelis only use administrative detention against Palestinians and there are no citizens of any civilised country in the world subjected to such a process. The whole process is a very negative legacy of the British Mandate era. It is ironic that Zionist militias and terror groups fought against the British for “independence” and yet the Zionist state is happy to use such an unjust legacy of British rule. Thousands of Palestinians and their leaders have suffered as a result of administrative detention, deprived of their right to a fair trial where they can be told what they are being charged with and prepare a defence.

It is because of the unjust and potentially indefinite nature of administrative detention that Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike. The hunger strikers include leaders and intellectuals from the community.
Solitary confinement has the effect of slow assassination, creating physical and psychological illnesses. It is used as a punishment and revenge, in violation of international law which grants prisoners the right to be held with others and receive visits from a lawyer and relatives. Detainees also have the right to health care, psychological treatment and protection from deliberate harm.

Detainees in solitary confinement are kept in a cell approximately 2.2 metres long and 2 metres wide; the only air enters through a hole just 10cm in diameter which is covered by wire mesh. Prison officers observe detainees through this hole, waking them if they are asleep and disturbing them when they are praying. No newspapers or TV are allowed as they constitute contact with the outside world. Exercise is also forbidden.

Some detainees have spent 12 years in such inhuman conditions, leading to the development of serious medical conditions, such as asthma and the loss of sight. They are in need of rehabilitation if and when they are released into “normal” prison life. The hunger strikers are demanding an end to the use of solitary confinement as a punishment against Palestinian prisoners.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.