ACRI: Administrative Detention should not be used against Palestinians or Israeli settlers

The Israeli human rights organization, ACRI [Association for Civil Rights in Israel] has testified to the Israeli Knesset’s Constitution Committee on 5 January that it is against the use of Administrative Detention — either against Palestinians, as is now the case, under the system of military regulations imposed in the West Bank by the Israeli Ministry of Defense, or against Israelis [whether Yeshiva students sent to run riot, or settlers carrying out what they call “price tag” attacks against Palestinians, or against the Israeli military’s “Civil Administration”].

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu explicitly raised the possibility of using Administrative Detention against “rioters” — this is understood to mean, including Israelis — in a statement made at one of the regular Sunday cabinet meetings a few weeks ago.

The invocation of measures authorized by military regulations [developed for use in the West Bank, and formerly also in Gaza], now, against “rioters” is currently understood as meaning the radical religious-nationalist right, particularly but not exclusively settlers. But it could presumably also be applied at those Israelis who demonstrate in solidarity with Palestinian demands — and perhaps also against international solidarity types as well.

Netanyahu got the approval of government ministers on 14 December for the proposal [see below] to extend military regulations to people other than Palestinians — and the measures include the use of Admininstrative Detention, trials [such as they are] in military courts, as well as expulsion from “various areas”.

    UPDATE: On Sunday 8 January, the New York Times reported here, “Israeli prosecutors on Sunday charged five radical Jewish settlers with tracking troop movements in the West Bank and organizing a raid on an Israeli Army base there last month. The indictment was the first sign of a promised crackdown on settlers whose increasingly provocative actions have been described by some Israeli officials as homegrown terrorism … But it was the civil Jerusalem District Court [n.b. – and NOT the Israeli miltary court system in the West Bank] that indicted the five on Sunday. The indictment said that all were residents of Judea and Samaria, the biblical names for the West Bank … They were charged with, among other things, operating a hot line to collect reports on troop and police movements in the West Bank, distributing the information and calling on supporters to be at specific locations to thwart attempts by Israeli forces to evacuate outposts. Some reports of troop movements were based on information received from soldiers on active duty, according to the charges. The suspects were also charged with illegally holding intelligence material like classified aerial photographs and maps of areas of the West Bank. One of the five, Akiva HaCohen, has long been considered an architect of the ‘price tag’ doctrine. He and three others among the five have been served administrative orders in the past barring them from the West Bank for certain periods”.

    The NYTimes story, by Isabelle Kershner, also reported that “Israeli leaders have expressed growing alarm at the actions by the settlers, including arson attacks against several mosques. But the December attack on the army base shocked much of country and drew a strong condemnation from leaders of the settler establishment, not least because the Israeli Army is responsible for protecting the settlements in the West Bank. According to the indictment, the military was planning to dismantle an illegal outpost in the northern West Bank called Mitzpe Yitzhar on the night of Dec. 12. But the prosecutors said that the evacuation was thwarted by the five suspects who organized the raid on the army base, during which dozens of settlers broke in, rioted, blocked the entrance with rocks and burning tires, and damaged military vehicles. A deputy brigade commander was injured when he was struck on the forehead. The same night, extremists stopped a car driven by a local Israeli commander and threw a brick at him. The forces that had been deployed to dismantle the outpost ended up being diverted to handle the disturbances”.

ACRI, in a letter dated 1 January that was submitted with their testimony to the Knesset Constitution Committee [on 5 January], stated that:

    “We wish to emphasize that we reject the proposals to expand the use of injurious tools [law] enforcement liable to violate human rights and the proper criminal process to which all those suspected and/or accused of breaking the law are entitled. Various reports suggest that the law enforcement agencies have decided to use injurious means, such as administrative detention and removal orders, preventing defendants’ right to review the prosecution material, and so forth. We believe that such injurious means of enforcement should not be employed – neither against Palestinians nor Israelis. [emphasis added] Instead, proper criminal proceedings should be followed that ensure the full rights of suspects and defendants to dignity, liberty and due process. Insofar as there is a shortage of tools for enforcement, personnel, and so forth, it must be ensured that the security and law enforcement agencies are allocated such resources as necessary in order to enable them to pursue investigations, detentions, indictment and trials that maintain the rights of suspects and defendants”.

This ACRI letter is posted here

UPDATE: AFP reported Friday that a senior police official, commander Haim Rahamim, told the members of the Knesset members of constitution committee [on constitution, law and justice] that “Jewish extremists carried out 228 attacks on the Israeli security forces operating in the West Bank in 2011”. AFP noted that Rahamim’s remarks were published in Haaretz on Friday, and added that Rahamim told the Knesset members that “2011 was the first year in which police kept separate numbers for attacks on the security forces by Israelis”. According to AFP, “Rahamim, who heads the West Bank police’s intelligence division, also said they had filed 65 indictments against extremists suspected of assault or for causing property damage in so-called ‘price tag’ attacks … Rahamim’s remarks were made a day after police issued restraining orders against 12 extremists suspected of attacking Palestinians and Israeli troops, barring them from entering the West Bank for between three and nine months”. This AFP report is published here.

On 13 December, the IDF issued a statement saying that “Overnight, approximately 50 right-wing activists infiltrated the Ephraim Regional Division Headquarters, set fire to tires and damaged vehicles with stones, bottles of paint and by placing nails on the road. IDF forces, together with the Israel Police, expelled these rioters from the base. In addition, rocks were thrown at the Ephraim Regional Division Commander’s vehicle. The commander was not injured. The IDF acts in accordance with the orders it receives from the political echelon. Together with the Israel Police and COGAT, the IDF will continue to enforce the law in Judea and Samaria, in spite of any violence that may be directed at IDF soldiers”. This statement is postedhere.

A day later, on 14 December, Netanyahu’s office reported [news received by email from the GPO, Israeli Government Press Office, part of the Prime Minister’s office] that the Prime Minister:

    “today (Wednesday), 14.12.11, accepted the recommendations of Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman for dealing with disturbances in Judea and Samaria. The ministers formulated the recommendations after meeting with ISA, IDF, Israel Police and State Attorney’s Office teams. The recommendations approved by Prime Minister Netanyahu are:
    1. The immediate issuing of administrative detention orders against rioters;
    2. Immediately increasing the number of those barred from various areas;
    3. Trying rioters in military courts;
    4. Giving IDF soldiers the authority to detain people; and
    5. Increasing both the number of special ISA, Israel Police, IDF and State Attorney’s Office investigation teams and the resources for investigations.
    Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected, at this stage, the recommendation to define the rioters as terrorists”.

Until now, the Palestinians in the West Bank have been handled under Israeli military regulations — some dating back to the British Mandate era, others made up during Israeli’s prolonged 44-year military occupation.
But, Israelis have always previously been treated under Israeli law.

It remains to be seen what effect Netanyahu’s recent proposal to use Administrative Detention and other undemocratic measures against “rioters” [whether Palestinian or Israelis from the right or from the left…] will ultimately have.

As Alon Ben-Meir has just written, here:
“The attack of hard-line Jewish settlers on an Israeli military base in the West Bank must not be seen as a passing incident that can simply be eradicated by punishing the perpetrators, as Prime Minister Netanyahu said in the Israeli Parliament. This dangerous and most deplorable incident is a byproduct of the continuing settlement policies that Netanyahu and his hard-core coalition partners have zealously been pursuing for the past three years … This is no longer just a small group of criminals and vandals who are out to burn or daub inflammatory graffiti on the walls of Palestinian Mosques or vandalize an Israeli military base. This is a whole movement deeply entrenched and continues to exert disproportionate influence on all Israeli governments, especially a right-leaning coalition government. It is a clear manifestation of a movement determined to control any future political agenda in the West Bank and will not be, as Netanyahu seems to believe, easily eradicated. Yes, he can incarcerate one, two, or a dozen settlers but how he does he intend to incarcerate a whole movement, which represents the core of his own constituency? Notwithstanding the Netanyahu’s government ‘revulsion’ to the settlers’ criminal acts, these settlers know where Netanyahu and his cohorts really stand as long as the government continues to authorize construction of new housing in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood”.

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