Monday, July 23, 2012

Demanding an End to Administrative Detention

Israel's use of administrative detention drew the attention of solidarity activists worldwide the past few months as thousands of Palestinians illegally imprisoned by Israel without charge went on hunger strike in protest, some winning their release after activists highlighted their cases through grassroots actions

The release of Khader Adnan, Hana Shalabi, Mahmoud Sarsak, and others should not overshadow that fact that hundreds of Palestinians continue to be held without charge by Israel. Walid Abu Rass is one such case. The press release below is from two activists who started a petition to highlight his case and that of all Palestinian political prisoners. 

Over 600 Petitioners Demand Release of Palestinians Held in Administrative Detention

Outraged by the most recent example of Israel’s capricious extension of administrative detention terms for Palestinian activists, two Southern California human rights activists decided to act. When she read the story about Walid Abu Rass’s experience, written by his friend Sam Bahour, Carolfrances Likin said: “This sounds like a petition campaign!”

Recalling how shocked she was by the military’s kangaroo court proceedings that she observed during the first intifada, long-time activist Sherna Gluck, immediately jumped in, and together with Carolfrances and Sam, launched an Avaaz petition calling on the Military Judge Advocate and the Commander of Ofer Prison to release Abu Rass and all prisoners held in administrative detention. As noted in Amnesty International’s demand that Israel end the use of administrative detention, this practice is a breach of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

The initial US signers of the petition were joined by supporters of human rights from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Finland, France, Greece, India, ltaly, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, Spain, South Africa- and even Israel.

Walid Hanatsheh Abu Rass (ID # 9-9702819-6), is the Finance and Administration Manager for the Health Work Committees (HWC), one of the largest community health service providers in the occupied Palestinian territory. Like so many other human rights advocates, he has been in and out of Administration Detention for the past five years, without once being formally charged. For more details on his case, visit Addameer's website

Abu Rass’s experience in not unique. Rather, in a scene repeated regularly throughout the Occupied Territories, and one reminiscent of police states, soldiers raided his home at 1:30 in the morning on November 22, 2011. He was blindfolded and dragged off as his terrified family looked on. And, like the 24 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the four journalists and the countless human rights advocates, university students and academic staff - not to mention dozens of children - he did not receive a fair trial. Rather, with no proof or official charges filed, following a closed session from which he and his lawyer were barred, he was sentenced by the Occupying army. Since then, despite appeals, his sentence has been repeatedly extended.

Speaking of his friend’s most recent experience, Sam Bahour said, “I couldn’t make up what happened to him even if I was a word-class fiction writer.” 

Abu Ras was initially surprised by the news that he would be freed one month before his scheduled release date and his family was already planning a celebration. Instead, just when he thought his release was imminent, on June 25th the military judge informed him that his term had been extended for three months- and then reduced to two!

This is precisely the kind of scenario that Amnesty International documents discussed in its recent report, noting that detainees “must live with the uncertainty of not knowing how long they will be deprived of their liberty and the injustice of not knowing exactly why they are being detained”

“We are pleased with the response to our petition,” Gluck said, “especially since any actions seeking justice for Palestinians is such an uphill battle. And although we don’t really expect the Israelis to respond to petitioners like us, as more and more people around the world take small steps like this, there can be change.” 

Likin couldn’t agree more, noting: “In the meantime, we hope that it gives heart to the Palestinian prisoners to know that we are here, outside, fighting for them, just as they are inside because they were fighting for justice.”