'Amnesty administrative detention report PR gimmick'

NGO charges Israel with "human rights violations" over administrative detention; demands investigations, compensation.

June 7, 2012 02:30
2 minute read.
Amnesty International activists

Amnesty International activists 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Julien Muguet)


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The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday dismissed a recent Amnesty International report slamming Israel’s policy of administrative detentions as “one sided,” and “not particularly serious,” adding that it seemed little more than a “public relations gimmick.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson said that the only way to write a report like this would be to “speak to both parties and get the facts and opinions and answers from both sides.”

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This, he said, was not done.

The report published late Tuesday, titled “Starved of justice: Palestinians detained without trial by Israel,” accused Israel of human rights violations, torture and contravening its obligations under international humanitarian law. And these conclusions, Hirschson said, were drawn “without them speaking to the Israeli side.”

“They didn’t speak to us, they didn’t fact check with us, or ask our opinion. You can’t produce a serious report without that,” he said.

Hirschson said the fact the organization released the report to the media before sending it to the relevant authorities in Israel “strikes us as a public relations gimmick.”

Gerald Steinberg, head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, was also extremely critical of the report, saying the decision to produce it now “did not come out of the blue” but was tied to the recent Palestinian hunger strikes relating to the issue.

“This report is closely tied into the campaign on the hunger strikers, which is a political campaign,” he said. Steinberg charged that Amnesty International, with this unsigned report, simply “jumped on the bandwagon to help their Palestinian allies.”

He said the fact that the names of the authors were omitted is reflective of an unfortunate lack of transparency which makes it impossible to take the report serious.

It is important, he said, to know who writes human rights reports to ensure that biases do not creep in.

The report concluded that Israel must either release or charge all Palestinians currently being held under administrative detention laws.

“Israel has used its system of administrative detention – intended as an exceptional measure against people posing an extreme and imminent danger to security – to trample on the human rights of detainees for decades,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “It is a relic that should be put out to pasture.”

The report demanded that Israel investigate violations of the law, and added that Israel must compensate Palestinian victims.

The issue of Israel’s use of administrative detention was thrust into the spotlight last month when more than 1,600 Palestinian prisoners declared a mass hunger strike to demand improvements in prison conditions and an end to certain practices, such as the administrative detentions, limitation of visitation rights, and solitary confinement.

Amnesty expressed “concern” over “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” of Palestinian detainees. The report charged that Israel is in violation of international law, specifically the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture, to which Israel is a party.

Toward the end of the report, Amnesty implored the international community to “Exercise universal jurisdiction to prosecute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.”

The principle of international jurisdiction allows states to bypass traditional jurisdiction of another state if they deem severe crimes have been committed.

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