November 13, 2005
Since the Palestinian Intifada or Uprising broke out nearly five years ago, 35,000 Palestinians, including 3,000 children, have been detained by the Israelis, according to MIFTAH, a Palestinian peace and justice group.
The Palestinians have repeatedly called on the International Red Cross Society (IRCS) the world human rights organisations to pressure the Israeli government to protect the prisoners in Israeli jails, most, if not all of them held without charges, quite often for long periods.
Every family in Palestine has had one of its members detained by the Israeli authorities at one point or another.
Israel has a rich history of detaining people without trial, based on an administrative instead of judicial order based on secret, oftenly fake evidence. Such orders may be issued at the initiative of a military commander, in accordance with Military Order Number 1229 of 1988.1, stated San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center on its website.
Israel issued in 1970 its first military order authorizing issuing administrative detention orders, a measure that targetting Palestinians in the occupied territories.
The NGO Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners' support and human rights organisation, said that the first paragraph of the latest military order stated that:
"If a Military Commander deems the detention of a person necessary for security reasons he may do so for a period not in excess of 6 months, after which he has the right to extend the detention period for a further six months according to the original order. The detention order can be passed without the presence of the detainee ..."
Amnesty International describes administrative detention in Israel as "... a procedure under which detainees are held without charge or trial. No charges are filed, and there is no intention of bringing a detainee to trial. By the detention order, a detainee is given a specific term of detention. On or before the expiry of the term, the detention order is frequently renewed. This process can be continued indefinitely."
Israel holds about 8,000 Palestinians in its prisons, including 312 children and 128 women, according to MIFTAH.
In 2002 Reporters without Borders, said that "... more than 20 Palestinian journalists (were) arrested since the Israeli occupation of Palestinian towns and cities began on 29 March".6 In 2003, the organisation stated that "at least 13 journalists had been imprisoned (and) a total of 954 cases of administrative detention were recorded by human rights groups".
The number of prisoners keeps growing.
Ahmed (not his real name) describes his experience of administrative detention.
"I don't know why I was in the detention. They told me I am there because I am social activist. That's all they said".
During the night he was arrested, which he described as "the panic night", Ahmed says the Israeli soldiers took him "from my house in 2002 at 2 o'clock in the morning. The door of my house was detonated and then shooting was heard very loudly inside the house and in the street. At that moment I thought that I am dead, me and my family. Then they used the speakers to demand us all get out of the house, otherwise they will explode the house on our heads."
"They tied my hands behind my back, and covered my eyes. Then they led me into a vehicle. I was on the ground. Most of the time they were kicking me all over my body. After a time the vehicle stopped and they took me to somewhere that I don't know. Later I discovered that the trip was just a 'vacation' compared with the next.
"After several long hours sitting on stones I got help from a guy there who took off the cover from my eyes and released my hands from that plastic band. I remember that I spent almost 24 hours without drinking a drop of water or eating anything. Even if I wanted to pee it took over two hours to allow me, in a mobile bathroom - very dirty one, no water source in it."
"After three nights sleeping on the stones they took me to Ofer Jail near Ramallah by special bus."
"The jail was divided into 11 sections. Each section held 120 prisoners, distributed into 6 tents. The facilities in each section include 6 bathrooms constructed with zinc sheets, distributed into 2 showers and two bathrooms for urine and another two for a sink. There was just a little channel coming out of the bathrooms. The ground of the jail and in all the tents was asphalt. The beds were made of wood sticks over a mattress without a pillow and with two sheets. These didn't save the prisoner from the cold in the winter at all. The prisoners spent the nights during the winter wearing their jackets to bed. Otherwise they would freeze from cold. Every prisoner has an 'account' managed by the jail. Money is paid in by a member of the prisoner's family."
"The security counting began at 6 o'clock am, which meant that all the prisoners should sit on their knees in front of their tent to be counted. The prisoners kneel ten in every row, then a soldier comes to count the prisoners, accompanied by the representative of the section. This took place three times a day. If you look at any guard's face directly you will punished with one day in isolation, or to pay a fine from your 'account'.
"If any prisoner complains of any kind of disease or sickness, anything like high blood pressure or flu or any infection, the medicine is always one tablet of Paracetamol. For any kind of emergency, a response from the jail administration could happen after one day, if you are lucky."
"In Ofer jail, no one interrogated me. They just sent me to a tent with another 19 persons, but the tent was barely enough for 6-8 persons. After three weeks there, the administration of the jail called me to a military court."
"The sentences of administrative detention are made in a 'court', which is a hall of 7 metres by 5 metres in the jail. There is a military judge, the intelligence officer, the lawyer and translator. It is just a fake court to tell you that there is secret evidence that no one could know, even the judge himself, on advice from the intelligence officer to the judge. This is in order to punish a prisoner with six months' administrative detention or to extend his period to another three to six months.
Israeli lawyers handling administrative detention admitted the harsh living conditions (and worse) of detainees in Israeli jails.
"While most prisoners are accommodated in tents, at times (they are) overcrowded and as a rule furnished with wooden planks (boards) and covered with rather thin mattresses to sleep on. Occasionally, boxes serve as tables and/or cupboards..."
"Prisoners are not free to communicate with family and friends ... During often-imposed sieges and special closures and always during the Jewish holidays the visits are suspended... The visitors and the visited undergo meticulous, humiliating strip searches. During the visit prisoners are separated from the families by a double mesh, all physical contact, even with babies, is forbidden. Proper conversation is impossible. The prisoners are not allowed to communicate by phone - not even with their lawyers."
Palestinians in administrative detention are mostly held in Ofer Military Camp in the West Bank, the Ansar 3 / Ketziot Military Camp in the harsh Negev desert, Beituniya and Kfar Yuna Military Prison camps.
One of the detainees held at Ansar 3 prison described the jail as" ... a living hell ... living amongst the snakes and the scorpions".
In 1998, Amnesty International reported that "... in Megiddo Military Detention Centre Marwan Ma'ali who was arrested in August committed suicide in September. Psychiatrists in the detention centre had reportedly diagnosed him as depressive with suicidal tendencies and recommended his release or hospitalization. An Israeli human rights organisation had described his isolation cell as 'unsuitable for habitation for any human being'. Nevertheless, his administrative detention had been extended for five months shortly before his suicide."
"Having spent 14 and half years in jail ... I could provide you with thousands of stories of torture and maltreatment. Normally when we think of torture we imagine brute physical force being applied to naked flesh, but today I will tell you a different story, something which happened to me," stated a Palestinian ex-prisoner at a conference in London last,.
"Having been deprived of sleep for 2 or 3 days, a tin bucket was placed on my head. I was made to stand still. My interrogator then turned on a shower tap above my head, the water dripped out slowly. I was then left by my interrogator and watched by a guard for several hours. You feel like you are losing you mind. After several hours my interrogator returned to mock me, was I 'having fun enjoying being clean for once' ... In such circumstances, whilst others are having similar things done to them in nearby rooms, the stress become unbearable. Many crack and begin hallucinating."
Those tactics resemble to a great extent what U.S. military interrogators did at Abu Ghraib prison near the Iraqi capital, where as the grotesque pictures that surfaces in April 2004 showed, prisoners were subjected to sexual and physical abuse, torture, and other brutal methods to force them speak and give the interrogators information they need.
Numerous media reports and most of those charged in Abu Ghraib abuse scandal asserted that the U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld who gave go-ahead for such tactics, imported from Guantanamo, the U.S. detention center in Cuba.
Now hearing about those brutal interrogation methods and harsh conditions the Palestinians suffer at the Israeli jails, one can assert that those tactics are authorized and ordered by senior ranking Israeli military officials, or members of Sharon's government.
Some news reports have actually suggested, although no evidence has been provided yet, that Israeli agents were involved in Abu Ghraib abuse.
NewsMax's UN correspondent Stew Stogel once said that diplomatic sources in Washington told him that Israelis are believed to be involved in the Iraq abuse scandal.
"Israelis have been to Abu Ghraib and other prisons [in Iraq]," said one source, adding that the Israelis involved were assigned as "civilian contractors" to work with the occupation forces in questioning Iraqi POWs.
They're believed to be veterans of Israel's domestic intelligence unit, Shin Bet, as well as Mossad, Israel's Intelligence Agency.
"Who has better experience in dealing with the Arabs than Israel?" one source asked.
"Interrogation" methods U.S. soldiers used in Iraq have been used by Israel "for years," one source said.