Urgent Appeal from Palestinian Mothers & Wives of Palestinian Administrative Detainees
June 3, 2014
To: Chairman and Members of the U.S. Congress
We, the mothers and wives of Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli prisons, would like to express our deep concern for the lives of our sons and husbands, who launched open-ended hunger strike since 24 April 2014 in protest of their continued detention under administrative detention. Our sons and husbands are suffering from grave health consequences as a result of their prolonged hunger strikes, as well as from cruel punishments perpetrated by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), including strip searches; solitary confinement; beating, insults and humiliation during daily cell raids; denial of visits from their families; and restricted access to their legal counsel.
Israel exercises military law in the West Bank, which is used to hold Palestinians without charge or trial on the basis of evidence that is not accessible either to the detainees or their lawyers, a process called administrative detention. According to article 285, Israeli Military Order 1651, these administrative detention orders can be renewed indefinitely every one to six months. Israel’s practice of detaining Palestinians from the occupied West Bank within Israeli borders violates articles 49 and 76 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit an occupying power from detaining members of the occupied population outside the occupied territory.
In its concluding observations on Israel in 2010, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors state compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, criticized Israel’s “frequent and extensive use of administrative detention,” and called on Israel to “refrain from using [it]” and to “complete as soon as possible” a review of relevant legislation.
The laws of occupation, which Israel is bound to respect as the occupying power in the West Bank, permits the use of administrative detention only in exceptional circumstances. Article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention provides that an occupying power may legitimately order the detention of an individual only “for imperative reasons of security.” The International Committee of the Red Cross, in its “Commentary” to article 78, stresses that the “exceptional character” of such measures “must be preserved.”
Sarah Leah Whitson , Middle East director at Human Rights Watch stated “It is outrageous that Israel has locked these men up for months without either charging them with crimes or allowing them to see the evidence it says it has against them…The detainees evidently feel they have to put their lives in jeopardy through hunger strikes so that Israel will end these unlawful practices…Israel’s regular use of administrative detention, at the least, inverts international law and turns the exception into the norm, at the cost of the fundamental right to due process.” Both the UN Committee Against Torture and the UN Human Rights Committee have criticized the way Israel uses administrative detention orders and called on it to review its use.
In a Joint report published in October 2009 by two Israeli organizations; Hmoked and B'Tselem called on the government of Israel to release the administrative detainees or prosecute them in accordance with the due-process standards set forth in international law. So long as Israel continues to administratively detain Palestinians, it must use this means in a way that complies with international law. Within the above mentioned report the following paragraph was included:
“Under international law, a state may detain a resident of occupied territory without trial to prevent danger only in extremely exceptional cases. Israel, however, holds hundreds of Palestinians for months and years under administrative orders, without prosecuting them. By doing so, it denies them rights to which ordinary detainees in criminal proceedings are entitled: they do not know why they are detained, when they will go free and what evidence exists against them, and are not given an opportunity to refute this evidence. As with many patterns of its activity in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, Israel cites what it defines as "security needs" to explain its policy of detention without trial. Yet these needs, assuming they indeed exist in every case of administrative detention, cannot justify such grave infringement of human rights, in breach of international humanitarian law .”
The international community in general – and particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which include the U.S., has a direct responsibility to ensure that international law is not violated. For decades numerous articles of the Convention have been breached by the Israeli authorities on a daily basis, but as yet, no genuine pressure has been applied.
Israel should immediately charge or release our sons and husbands who are detained without charge or trial. It has not charged any of them with any crime, and never allowed them to see or contest any evidence against them, instead placing them in administrative detention for renewed periods, which Israel contends is a preventive rather than punitive form of detention.
Israel should be forced to respect International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights law, by the brave and honest leaders in the world, such as you. Your vital role is crucially needed, in ending the policy of administrative detention forever, as this abusive and unlawful practice severely affects the administrative detainees and their families, especially their children.
We, the mothers and wives, believe that your urgent and brave response to our appeal, will save the lives of our sons and husbands, and will end the suffering of hundreds of Palestinian families. We hope that your kind efforts, will contribute in achieving justice, and peace in the world for all peoples, and especially for the oppressed Palestinian people.
 UN Committee Against Torture, Concluding Observations (Israel), 14 May 2009, paragraph 17 – CAT/C/ISR/CO/4; and UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations (Israel), 29 July 2010, paragraph 7 – CCPR/C/ISR/CO/3.