Israel’s Minister of Public Security, far-right extremist leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, has introduced another measure to worsen the situation of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons. On Sunday, Ben-Gvir introduced an amendment to a law and effectively canceled the legal provision for the early release of Palestinians that are being held in administration detention. Human rights group Adalah denounced the policy change calling it “unfair” and warned that it would further worsen living conditions for Palestinian prisoners.
Palestinian administrative detainees are reported to suffer from a range of psychological and physical abuse at the hands of Israeli prison officers. They are usually held in overcrowded, unsanitary, and extremely small cells. Detainees often undergo brutal interrogation sessions, solitary confinement, and punitive restrictions including bans on using prison facilities or making contact with family and lawyers.
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The policy of detaining individuals without charge or trial for indefinite periods is a violation of international law. Israeli authorities regularly cite ‘secret evidence’ as the basis of their detention, which is not disclosed to the prisoners or their lawyers. The detention orders are renewable every four to six months.
This latest measure by Ben-Gvir, who became a minister in the current Netanyahu government, comes just days after the Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed highly controversial judicial reforms. The reforms significantly reduce the powers of the Israeli judiciary, including taking away its power to review legal and policy changes by the government and other officials, such as the revocation of the early release provision. Even before the judicial reforms were enacted, Israeli courts would rarely intervene on policy matters concerning Palestinians and the occupation. With the reforms, the Israeli government now has a free hand to drastically escalate its repressive and violent policies towards Palestinians.
The number of administrative detainees has seen a massive spike since the current ultra-right government under Netanyahu came to power. Earlier numbers usually ranged between 500-600, but now, according to the latest numbers from the prisoner support and human rights organization Addameer, 1,132 Palestinians are being held under the administrative detention policy. The total number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody is close to 5,000, which includes 160 children and 33 women. 700 prisoners are suffering from various life threatening conditions and 554 are serving life sentences.
Peoples Dispatch, formerly The Dawn News, is an international media project with the mission of bringing to you voices from people’s movements and organizations across the globe. Since its establishment three years ago, it has sought to ensure that the coverage of news from around the world is not restricted to the rhetoric of politicians and the fortunes of big companies but encompasses the richness and diversity of mobilizations from around the world.