(Jerusalem) – Israel should immediately charge or release Palestinians detained without charge or trial for prolonged periods and stop denying them and their lawyers access to evidence of their alleged crimes.
On February 22, 2013, an Israeli military court extended the detention without charge of Ja`afar Izz el-Din and Tarek Qa`dan, both held since November 2012 when Israeli forces arrested them in the West Bank. Military courts have refused to allow the men or their lawyers to see the evidence being used to justify their continuing detention. Other detainees, including Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawna, are due to face a military committee that can order their re-imprisonment on the basis of secret evidence.
These Palestinian detainees have for months been protesting fundamental due process violations by refusing food. Lawyers who have visited them in detention say they are suffering grave health consequences as a result of their prolonged hunger strikes. Families of some of the hunger strikers have told Human Rights Watch that Israeli authorities have refused to allow them to visit the men.
“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,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The detainees evidently feel they have to put their lives in jeopardy through hunger strikes so that Israel will end these unlawful practices.”
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, in a statement, said that on February 10 prison authorities transferred Izz el-Din and Qa`dan for medical treatment from a detention facility in Ramle, inside Israel, to Assaf HaRofeh hospital, against their objections. The rights group said that the authorities refused the men’s requests to see an independent physician from the group and shackled their hands and feet to their hospital beds.
Israel forces arrested the men separately in the town of Arrabeh, near Jenin in the northern West Bank, on November 22. Qa`dan and Izz el-Din have been on hunger strike since November 28 to protest their administrative detention, according to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights group. The men have accepted occasional injections of nutrients to prevent death.
Qa`dan’s brother, Mo`awiye, and Izz el-Din’s brother, Mohammed, separately told Human Rights Watch that Israeli authorities have since the arrests refused requests by family members to allow them to travel into Israel to visit the men in detention.
Israel’s practice of jailing West Bank Palestinians inside Israel violates the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit an occupying power from detaining members of the occupied population outside the occupied territory.
The Israeli military has detained the two men under a military law providing for “administrative detention,” which allows detention without charge or trial on the basis of evidence that is not accessible either to the detainees or their lawyers. Israeli military administrative detention orders have a duration of one to six months and may be indefinitely renewed.
Jawad Boulus, a lawyer representing Izz el-Din and Qa`dan, told Human Rights Watch that the Israeli military had renewed each man’s detention for three months on February 22.
Israel’s international legal obligations require it to inform those arrested of the reasons for the arrest at the time, to promptly inform them of any charges against them, and to bring them before a judge, and in criminal cases, to provide a fair and public trial in which the defendant may challenge any witnesses against them. In its concluding observations on Israel in 2010, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors states’ 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