Hundreds of Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons, both in Israel and in the West Bank, without charges, without having been presented with the alleged evidence against them and without knowing when they will be released. Israel calls this “administrative detention”. It is nothing new. For decades, Israel has been holding hundreds of Palestinians in administrative detention at any given moment.
Some figures: According to the Israel Prison Service, in May 2018 Israel was holding 440 Palestinians in administrative detention, including two women and three minors. Administrative detentions are routinely extended: Of the 440 detainees, 126 had been held for six to twelve months (meaning their detention had been extended at least once), and 93 had been held for more than a year (meaning their detention had been extended at least twice). Over the last year, 29 Palestinians were taken into administrative detention every month, on average, and 37 were released. In the past decade, the number of detainees held by Israel in a single month never fell below 150.
The powers that allow ordering administrative detention are extreme and sweeping. While detention orders are ostensibly subject to review both by the military courts and by the Supreme Court, these instances merely offer a guise of judicial review and routinely uphold such detentions.
Denise al-Hamuri, 59, a resident of a-Ram and married mother of three, described her son’s detention in a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher ‘Amer ‘Aruri on 21 July 2018:
My son, Salah al-Hamuri (33), has been in administrative detention since 23 August 2017. At first he was detained for six months. Then the detention was extended by another four months, from 28 February to 30 June 2018. On 1 July, they extended it for another three months, until 30 September 2018.
Salah worked as a researcher for the Addameer Association. He is married to Alissa , a French citizen, and they have a two-year-old son. They got married on 5 June 2014. On 1 May 2016, after Alissa returned from a visit to France, she was stopped at Ben Gurion airport and taken away. She was seven months pregnant and was held overnight. She gave birth to the boy, Hassan, in France and hasn’t been back since.
I very much hope they release him on 30 September 2018 and don’t extend the detention again. He can’t see his son. The boy doesn’t understand where his father is, he’s only two years old.
My husband, Hassan (63), can’t visit Salah. He’s afraid to go through the metal detector because he had open heart surgery in 2009 and has a metal implant in his chest. He doesn’t want to be humiliated and detained on the way to the prison, and is afraid that going through the detector will harm him. At least he managed to see him in court several times – they go easy on the security checks in court if you have medical papers. But in there, we’re not allowed to talk to him or even go near him.
I visit him once a month. It’s a tough day. I have to wake up early – I travel by car to the Red Cross center in Jerusalem and from there catch a shuttle to the prison that they organize at 5:30 A.M. The trip from Jerusalem to the “Ktzi'ot” prison takes three hours in every direction. The whole way, I think of my job as a mother – I have to be strong and convey optimism for his sake. One of my children – Caroline (25) or Amir (23) – goes with me. We’re allowed to bring only five photographs. We bring photos of his son so he can see how he’s growing up. I try to be strong and hold back my tears during the visit so he won’t see me crying, especially when I watch him looking at the photos.
Salah knows that barring his wife and son from entering was an attempt to break him and weaken his spirit. He also tries to keep up a strong appearance for me. I tell him he mustn’t worry, that his wife and son are fine and that he’ll be out soon.
Eight months ago I visited my grandson in France. He held photos of his father and kept asking me when he would see him, when daddy would come home. He’s a little boy and it’s hard to explain that his father is in prison. It’s very hard for Salah’s wife, too. She wants to visit him. I try to give them strength.
It’s tough. Salah can’t see his father, his wife or his son. It’s hard that his wife has to raise their son alone. I suffer in silence. I try to keep up positive appearances for everyone, but it’s hard. The worst is seeing how my grandson doesn’t understand what’s going on.
Israa Abu Shihab, 19, an accounting student from Qalqiliyah who is married and has a one-year-old son, spoke about her husband’s detention in a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 7 June 2018:
I married Mahmoud Abu Shihab on 26 August 2016. He worked as a construction worker in the Qalqiliyah area before he was sent to administrative detention on 20 December 2016. After the wedding, we lived with his mother in the village of ‘Azzun. She passed away in January, after he was arrested. I was three months pregnant at the time, which is why I decided to move in with my parents in Qalqiliyah, so I wouldn’t be alone.
On 20 December 2016, when I was pregnant, my husband went with me to a doctor’s appointment in Qalqiliyah. On the way back, we took a shared taxi to ‘Azzun. When we were near the village of ‘Izbat a-Tabib, soldiers stopped the taxi and checked the passengers’ ID cards. They got my husband out of the taxi and told the driver to keep going. They kept my husband, and I went on to ‘Azzun. It was only two days later that the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club told me an administrative detention order has been issued against him for six months.
Before the end of the prison term, they renewed the detention for another six months. Then they wanted to extend it by six months again. With the help of a lawyer from the Prisoners’ Club, we managed to reduce it to four additional months. After four months, they renewed the detention again, for the third time, for four more months. They are supposed to be up on 22 August 2018.
My husband was never charged with any crime. The security services say there’s a secret file that is known only to the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) officer. We have no idea why he’s been in detention for more than a year and a half.
My husband was arrested less than four months after our wedding. It was very painful for me to give birth to our son without him. I went through the joys and difficulties of the pregnancy alone. It was very painful for me that he couldn’t share my happiness when I got the news I’d been accepted into the accounting program at university.
I tried to visit him in prison. I managed to get an entry permit only five months after he was detained. It was a limited permit, valid for only two months, and allowed for only two visits. That was exactly when the administrative detainees went on a hunger strike, and one of the punitive measures against them was denying family visits, so I couldn’t visit him. I got another permit later, also valid for two months, from 24 August 2017 to 23 October 2017, and managed to visit my husband for the first time – nine months after he was detained, on 17 September 2017. It was a painful experience. They refused to let our son Jud on the other side of the glass partition so his father could hold him and kiss him for the first time.
I managed to visit him again in November 2017. They let him hold Jud that time. My last visit was on 20 December 2017. I keep trying to renew my permit through the Red Cross, but the clerk told me a ban had been placed on renewing my permit for security reasons.
I haven’t seen him for more than six months. I’m going through a difficult and painful time in my life. This whole time, they haven’t charged him with anything.
Arwa Snobar, 26, a married mother of two from the village of Tell in the Nablus District, spoke about her husband’s detention in a testimony she gave to B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb'i on 6 May 2018:
On 24 July 2014, soldiers came to our house and arrested my husband, Mustafa Hindi (28). He had been held in administrative detention several times in the past, before we got married, and was never indicted.
The day after the arrest, I learned from my father-in-law that my husband was at the Huwarah camp. Five days later, the lawyer told us he was in administrative detention for two months. A week before the release date, a detainee who had been with him in jail and had been released called to tell us my husband’s detention had been extended by two more months. I was very surprised. I’d already prepared for his homecoming. Our son was young and was looking forward to seeing his father. I missed him very much, too.
I told myself this wasn’t the end of the world, only two more months and everything would go back to the way it was. After the additional two months, he was released and came back into our lives.
In 2015, my husband was arrested again and sent to Megiddo Prison. A few days later, the Prisoners’ Club called and told us his administrative detention order was for four months. It was extended for another four months. I was pregnant when he was arrested and had my second son, Karam, on 6 March 2016, while my husband was in detention. It was very difficult. Instead of going to the hospital with my husband, I went with my parents and in-laws. I wanted him by my side. I wanted him to be the first to hold the baby after he was born. I managed to call him the next day to tell him we had a boy. I felt that he was trying to sound happy, but I could hear the sadness in his voice.
A month after Karam was born, I went to visit him with the two children and my mother-in-law but, at a-Taybah checkpoint, they took our permit away and said we couldn’t go in for security reasons. I tried to cross through another checkpoint, but they said the same thing. I filed an application for a new permit through the Red Cross, but it was rejected. They told me it was for security reasons.
On 10 June 2016, my husband was released again. The saddest thing for me was that our eldest son, Tawfiq, refused to go anywhere near him or say hello. My husband was arrested when he was a little boy. Tawfiq barely had time to get used to him, and then soldiers forced their way into our house again and arrested him on 14 March 2017, the day before his brother’s wedding.
The biggest problem with my husband’s detentions is the uncertainty. We can never know when he’ll be released, because the military can extend the detention as many times as it wants. My husband is still in detention. He initially got six months’ administrative detention and then it was extended. On 12 March 2018, he went on a hunger strike which lasted 34 days. A few days earlier, there was a hearing in his appeal against the extension at the military court. The judge didn’t ask him anything and wouldn’t let him speak. He just extended the detention right then and there, without hearing his side. If there had been an indictment and a proper trial, and he had been sentenced to a specific amount of time, it would have been easier for us. We don’t know when he’ll be released or what the allegations against him are.
I tried to convince him not to go on a hunger strike. It scared me. He said he’d had enough of the incessant arrests and that he hadn’t done anything to warrant this kind of punishment. The strike was a particularly difficult time because we stopped hearing from him. He was transferred to a different jail. We didn’t know exactly where. Even his lawyer didn’t know. He wasn’t able to visit him because they kept transferring him from prison to prison. In the end, the case was handed over to a different lawyer. He was held in solitary confinement and refused to go to hospital or take the minerals they tried to give him. My son Tawfiq heard the family talking and got worried. He kept asking why his father wouldn’t eat.
Finally, the prison authorities and Prisoners’ Club reached an agreement and he stopped the strike in return for being released on 12 September 2018, on condition that the detention will not be extended. I was very relieved when I heard about the agreement. I was very worried the hunger strike would cause him health problems in the future. Now we’re eagerly awaiting his release.
Khulud Dar Shrim, 37, a married mother of two and home maker from Qalqiliyah, spoke about her husband’s detention in a testimony she gave to B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 10 June 2018:
On 18 October 2016, soldiers forced their way into our home in Qalqiliyah, searched it and arrested my husband, Rizeq. He wasn’t taken in for interrogation. They just issued an administrative detention order against him for six months, with no indictment.
After his first administrative detention order was approved, I contacted the Red Cross to get a permit to visit my husband in prison. The authorities rejected my application “on security grounds” without giving any explanation. Officially, his administrative detention began on 16 November 2016 and lasted five months, until 18 April 2017. Before that time was up, they renewed his detention for another six months, until 17 October 2017.
I managed to get a permit to visit my husband only twice. He was held in the Negev. A whole year passed from the time they arrested him until I got to see him.
On 17 October 2017, the court approved a second extension, for four more months, until 16 February 2018. When that time was up, the court approved a third extension for four more months, until 15 June 2018.
When my husband was arrested I was seven months pregnant. A month later, I had Yusef. He still hasn’t received his father’s love. I took him to see his father in prison when he was a year old. Rizeq couldn’t stop crying that day. I hadn’t seen him like that in all the years we were married. I’ve been allowed to visit him only four times since he was arrested almost two years ago. The last time was on 18 April 2018. I thought then that he would be released on the date listed in the order, in June, but the detention was renewed again, for the fourth time. We’re going to visit him again on Wednesday, before ‘Eid al-Fitr.
My husband is far away from me, from his home and his children. It’s painful for me to see the children growing up without a father.
Firyal Mardawi, a 53-year-old married mother of eight from the village of Qaryut, spoke about her husband’s detention in a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb'i on 7 June 2018:
On 12 December 2017, at two o’clock in the morning, soldiers forced their way into our home and arrested my husband, Hussein Mardawi (60). They didn’t let him change. He asked the soldiers’ permission to put some socks on because it was cold, but they didn’t let him get dressed or even take a winter coat with him. They took him as he was, in his pajamas, and wouldn’t let us say goodbye to him.
I haven’t seen my husband since. All our applications for a special permit for prison visits have been denied on “security grounds”. My daughter Islam (24) managed to get a permit and visited him at Qetziot Prison twice. My other daughters, Mais (22) and Salma (18), managed to visit him once two weeks ago.
I didn’t know anything about how he was doing in the first two weeks of his detention. I tried to talk to all sorts of organizations, and no one could tell me where he was or how he was doing. Two weeks later, we learned from the lawyer that an administrative detention order had been issued against him for four months. I worry that the detention is very difficult for my husband. He is a sixty-year-old man who can’t handle prison conditions.
Two days after his release date, his detention was extended for four more months. He told me over the phone. I could tell he had bad news by the way he was talking, even before he told me. I cried quietly and couldn’t say another word. He fell silent too and hung up. A few days later we talked again and tried to comfort each other.
Everyone was really eager for him to return. My daughter was just getting ready for her university graduation ceremony, and the grandchildren were talking about how grandpa would be back soon.
They are holding him with no charges. If they had something on him, they would have sentenced him for a set term in prison and we would know exactly when he’d be released. It’s frustrating. His release date is 12 August 2018, if they don’t extend his detention for a third time, of course. I know there are administrative detainees whose detention gets renewed four or five times.
Suddenly I’m alone. I have to be both mother and father and provide for the family. It’s hard to pay the bills. What they’re doing to us is a great injustice.