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´Administrative detention´ the key to Palestinian hunger strikes (GUARDIAN UK) Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem 05/14/12) Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/13/administrative-detention-palestinian-hunger-strikes
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Holding of Palestinians in Israeli prisons without charge or trial was the originating grievance of the latest protests
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The issue that sparked the mass hunger strike among Palestinian prisoners was that of imprisonment without charge or trial, a practice Israel calls "administrative detention".
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There are 308 Palestinians in administrative detention in Israeli prisons. According to the Israeli human rights organisation, B´Tselem, about one third have been held for between six months and a year; one third have been held between one and two years; 13 have been held between two and four and a half years; and two prisoners have been held continuously for more than four and a half years.
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Neither those detained nor their lawyers are informed of the accusations or evidence against them, no charges are laid and no trial is held. "Since the detainees do not know the evidence against them, they are unable to refute it," say B´Tselem.
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Israel says administrative detention is a necessary measure when disclosure of information could compromise security. The individual is detained in order to prevent him or her committing an act or actions that may endanger public safety.
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Administrative detainees are brought before a military judge, who sets the term of detention up to a maximum of six months. This period, however, may be repeated indefinitely.
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B´Tselem says that administrative detention is permissible under international law in exceptional cases to prevent a grave danger. "Israel´s use of administrative detention blatantly breaches these rules," it says. It claims that Israel uses the measure to detain Palestinians for their political opinions and non-violent political activity.
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Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, last week urged that "those detained must be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees, or released without delay".
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Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli government, said administrative detention was only used when there was no alternative. "We would prefer a situation when every case could be tried in open court. But in some cases you can´t expose in a public forum your confidential sources and methods because it may put lives at risk."
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He denied that any Palestinian was administratively detained because of his or her beliefs. Many detainees were members of Islamic Jihad, "a ruthless Iranian-backed organisation which believes every Israeli is a legitimate target," he said.
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The first hunger striker in the current wave was Khader Adnan, a member of Islamic Jihad. He began refusing food in December shortly after being imprisoned for his ninth period of administrative detention. He ended his 66-day hunger strike after Israel agreed to release him at the end of his four-month period.
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The hunger strike has since broadened to other issues, such as the use of solitary confinement, the ban on relatives from Gaza being permitted to visit prisoners, and restrictions on access to educational materials.
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The latter was introduced after the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, but remained in place after his release last October. A spokeswoman for the Israeli prison service declined to confirm reports that this restriction has been lifted in response to the current protest. (guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2012 05/14/12)
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