Amira Hass explains horrifying implications of the amendments to Israeli military order 1651

There is a lot that happened that is not public in the negotiations to free IDF soldier Gilad Shalit [seized near Gaza in June 2006], in exchange for the release of some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners [in 2 lots].

And there is a lot that was not publicly reported, or well-explained.

Amira Hass wrote in Haaretz today that some of it amounts to “another act of sabotage and erosion of principles of fair process by military law”.

Her article, posted here, and entitled “Guilty until Proven Innocent”, focuses on rearrests, by the IDF and by the Shin Bet security agency, of some of the Palestinian prisoners released in the exchange for Shalit, who was allowed to go out from Gaza in October 2011. The re-arrests are justified by claims that the Palestinian ex-prisoners had violated the conditions of their release — conditions that are either unclear or possibly secret. The evidence that these ex-prisoners had violated these secret conditions is also secret.  She explained:
“The military legislators took a page from civil law, borrowing the damaging clauses concerning releasing prisoners with suspended sentences. At the same time, they ignored the balances in civilian law. They copied from the tradition of administrative detention (imprisonment without trial), and more than anything else, were inspired by the rage of political and defense officials, who believed Hamas managed to twist their arm. Thus, in 2009, two changes were made to the security decree clauses 184 and 186, and decree 1651, which deals with reprieves.

And this is how we have a military release committee, consisting exclusively of officials from the same apparatus that convicted the prisoner in the first place (and does not include social workers or education officials, as its civilian counterpart does.) In fact, the military law allows the arrest of a person until a military release committee decides if an offense has been committed (a civilian committee has no authority to arrest people), with automatic punishment and no need for a conviction.

The IDF and Shin Bet can hide behind ‘confidential evidence’, just as in administrative detention, but without the judicial review every several months, and we also have the committee’s lack of power of discretion: The committee, according to new changes in the decree and in contrast to a civilian committee, must return the released prisoner to jail for the entire term.

And even if a new indictment is submitted, based on new evidence; and even if the offense is not considered serious by the occupying power’s laws, who tend to see every Palestinian as guilty unless proved otherwise, and create offenses from seemingly daily actions such as talking to someone in the grocery store or participating in a demonstration; if convicted, the released prisoner will be sent back to prison, possibly for decades”.

This is more than chilling.

Hass added:

“It would be naive to believe that the callous arbitrariness, opposed to all principles of fair process, does not also pollute civilian law. The fact that these changes were conceived of and introduced while the negotiations for Shalit’s release were underway proves the IDF and Shin Bet were already prepping a trap door, a way to get the prisoners back into prison, especially those who had been sentenced to longer terms but were not deported abroad or to the Gaza Strip.

This is much more than a legal matter. In fact, between the lines, the High Court will debate [today, during an appeal by one of these re-arrested ex-prisoners] a belligerent Israeli culture of vengeance, and its destructive influence on the relations between the two peoples living in this land. The Palestinians, in turn, might just take home the message that whether it comes to their national rights or to the release of prisoners, Israel will always find a way to shirk agreements”.

Separately, Haaretz today published an editorial, entitled “Draconian arrests of Palestinians”, posted here, which reinforced Amira Hass’s report:

“Fourteen Palestinians freed in the Gilad Shalit deal were arrested by the IDF and Shin Bet security service. Amira Hass reported on Sunday in Haaretz that five of them might serve from 16 to 28 years in prison due to secret or negligible offenses they are accused of committing after their release. This revolving door system is not only inhuman in itself, it also undermines the agreements Israel signed and will make future deals much harder to achieve.

The arrest of the 14 Palestinians was possible due to the confidential 2009 changes in the military law, ?decree 1651, which were introduced as the negotiations were being held. These changes allow the IDF and Shin Bet to re-arrest any person released before the end of his original term, following offenses that do not involve terrorist actions, such as traffic violations, participating in illegal demonstrations or illegal entry to Israel ? and that based on confidential evidence.

This can lead to imprisonment for decades. The military committee that considers the violation of release conditions is staffed by IDF officers.

Even if the repeat arrests of the 14 are legal, according to military decrees?, they are draconian, and reek of cruelty and abuse. There is no measure of justice or reason in jailing a man for years because he visited an adjacent neighborhood or even assumed political activity”.

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