Palestinian Detainee Numbers in Israeli Prisons Surge to 8,800
The number of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons has reached 8800, Palestinian human rights monitors have found.
A coalition of NGOs advocating for prisoners' and detainees' rights, including Addameer and Silwan Wadi Silwah Information Centre, released their joint annual report for 2023. The report documented a minimum of 11,000 cases of detention in the Occupied Territories, with the number of female Palestinian detainees in Israel reaching 300. Notably, 184 of these women were arbitrarily detained after October 7, coinciding with the intensified Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip. October alone witnessed 2,070 detentions, the highest recorded in a single month. The findings also indicated that more than 661 detainees were officially classified as illegal fighters, and the rights monitor recorded at least 3,291 administrative detentions in the past year.
It is important to highlight that, currently, the precise number of detainees from the Gaza Strip and their status remains indeterminable due to the ongoing bombardment, limited access, and transparency by Israeli authorities, as well as the involvement of various local and international rights monitors.
The Israeli government's utilization of a dual legal system in the West Bank is drawing international attention and concern. Amnesty International notes a significant increase in the use of administrative detention by Israeli authorities, with over 2,070 Palestinians held without charge or trial by November 1, 2023. Jewish Israelis residing in West Bank settlements are subject to Israeli civil law, while around 3 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are subject to more stringent military law.
This legal dichotomy creates a situation where individuals from different backgrounds, living in close proximity, face disparate legal proceedings for similar offenses. Discrepancies extend to the sentencing process, resulting in individuals committing identical offenses facing different courts, distinct due process rights, and potentially varying sentences.
Omar Shakir, Director for Israel and Palestine at Human Rights Watch, highlights that a significant number of detainees have not faced convictions, and over 2,000 individuals are being held in administrative detention without being charged or undergoing a trial.
The UN Human Rights Office reports disturbing incidents in the north of Gaza, revealing mass detentions, ill-treatment, and enforced disappearances of potentially thousands of Palestinians by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Civilians, including women and girls, are allegedly forced to relocate south, resulting in multiple displacements. Approximately 140 women and girls are reportedly arbitrarily detained in undisclosed locations, intensifying families' anguish.
The IDF's claim of targeting "Hamas-affiliated" Palestinians raises concerns about collective punishment. Urgent steps are called for to ensure lawful detentions, humane treatment, due process, and access to information for affected families. Transparent investigations and accountability measures are urged in cases of reported ill-treatment or torture.
In a report to the General Assembly, UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese highlights the dire situation faced by Palestinian children in the occupied Palestinian territory. The report, covering events until October 6, 2023, reveals alarming statistics, including 1,434 Palestinian children killed since 2008 and 32,175 sustaining injuries inflicted by Israeli forces. Albanese criticizes Israel for framing Palestinian children as 'human shields' or 'terrorists,' justifying violence against them.
Concurrently, Al Jazeera's firsthand accounts shed light on the mistreatment and torture experienced by Palestinian detainees. Mahmoud Zindah shared his encounter with Israeli arrest and torture, recounting a soldier's remark about his resemblance to the soldier's deceased nephew. The soldier ominously implied that they all would face a similar fate of being slaughtered.
The harshness of military law is further emphasized by the potential for a 10-year jail sentence for Palestinians associated with groups opposing the occupation. Additionally, concerns about fair trial rights under the Geneva Conventions arise due to administrative detention, particularly involving children who are often detained without knowledge of the charges against them, with these detentions potentially being renewed indefinitely.
Human rights groups have long criticized Israel's detention system, documenting its abusive and discriminatory nature against Palestinians. Appeals have been made to various international mechanisms, such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, to address the perceived injustices. As the international community grapples with these revelations, urgent attention is called for to ensure lawful detentions, humane treatment, due process, and access to information for affected families.