Palestinian administrative detainees are boycotting courts for four months, B’Tselem said

B’Tselem: "Courts function as a rubber stamp for apartheid regime"

Palestinian American terrorist Muntasir Shalabi is brought to the courtroom for a court hearing at the Israel's Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 5, 2022, Shalabi guilty of murdering 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta at the Tapuah junction. (photo credit: FLASH90)
Palestinian American terrorist Muntasir Shalabi is brought to the courtroom for a court hearing at the Israel's Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 5, 2022, Shalabi guilty of murdering 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta at the Tapuah junction.
(photo credit: FLASH90)

All Palestinians in Israeli administrative detention have since January 1 been boycotting the military court proceedings in their cases, B’Tselem announced on Tuesday.

Although there have been such boycotts or prisoner strikes in the past, many have included hunger strikes, which tend to be resolved much quicker than in four months.

Usually there is a resolution when Israeli officials offer a small number of concessions out of prisoners’ long list of demands, but here it was unclear if a resolution is on the way.

“No Israeli official has addressed their concerns, and the courts continue hearing the detention orders as usual,” said B’Tselem. “Since the boycott began, the courts have heard dozens of cases – in the absence of the detainees and their lawyers.”

According to the Israel Prison Service, Israel is currently holding 579 Palestinians in administrative detention.

Palestinians hold the pictures Palestinian prisonners detained in Israeli prison starting a  hunger strike against the administrative detention in  the  village Dura, on September 17, 2021. (credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90)Palestinians hold the pictures Palestinian prisonners detained in Israeli prison starting a hunger strike against the administrative detention in the village Dura, on September 17, 2021. (credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90)

“Military court proceedings in administrative detention orders are no more than a facade of judicial review,” B’Tselem argued. “In these hearings, the detainees merely play the part of extras in a show designed to legitimize their incarceration. The state’s choice to continue the hearings as usual without the detainees or their lawyers simply proves it.”

"The military courts conduct a comprehensive, substantive, and substantive judicial review of each administrative detention order," the IDF said in response to the news.

"By law, once an administrative detention order has been issued there is an obligation to conduct a judicial review regardless of the detainee's will and this is conducted in a meticulous and thorough manner. The claim that these are idle proceedings is baseless. The decisions of the military courts are subject to review by the Court of Appeal and the High Court."

However, it has previously said that administrative detention is critical to saving lives when intelligence knows that a Palestinian is dangerous, but where Israel cannot reveal all of the evidence – as in regular criminal proceedings – without endangering sources and methods.

Although Israel requires judges to hold hearings and review evidence before approving these detentions, the NGO claimed, “The judges completely ignore that Israel’s use of administrative detention renders it unlawful. In violation of the restrictions placed by international law, Israel makes routine, extensive use of administrative detention.

“In the overwhelming majority of cases, the judges accept the Shin Bet’s [Israel Security Agency] claim regarding the ‘security risk’ that justifies the detainee’s immediate incarceration.”

B’Tselem is equally unimpressed with Israel allowing Palestinian appeals to the Supreme Court – though this move goes beyond international law’s minimalist requirements – asserting that the court rarely intervenes.

Another issue is that detainees only get to see a paraphrase of the evidence against them. The NGO said this means they never fully know “the reason for the detention and cannot challenge the allegations supposedly made against [them].”

B’Tselem also claimed that “in some cases, the judges request to see the classified material; in others, they do not review it or make any attempt to examine the information that led to the detention. In any case, the fact that the detainee cannot address this information empties the judicial process of any meaning.”

Moreover, “the court’s working assumption that administrative detention is a lawful measure. The judges only question how this power is implemented: did the military commander apply reasonable discretion in the case before them? At no point do they examine the legality of the measure itself.”

There are other countries that use administrative detention, but Israel justifies the much higher volume in which it uses it, citing itself as the world’s most threatened democracy.

The two former chief justices of the IDF West Bank courts both supported reforms to give representatives of detainees more access to the evidence against them, but the Shin Bet has mostly blocked these ideas.

The B’Tselem report noted that from the beginning of 2015 until the end of July 2017, 3,909 administrative detention orders were issued for Palestinians.

Of the orders heard by the courts during that time, 2,953 (75%) were authorized and 390 (10%) were shortened with no restrictions placed on their extension.

Another 48 orders (1.2%) were rejected, 181 (4.6%) were shortened and their extension restricted, and 320 (8.1%) were authorized and their extension restricted, said the NGO.

Absolute numbers have gone up and down, with 184 Palestinians in administrative detention in August 2012, 652 in August 2016 and 355 in August 2020.

Most were extended for six months to two years.