Palestinian journalist Ali Jaradat, who spent 11 years behind bars, tells Ynet ‘uncertainty and wait are the most difficult things for administrative detainees.’ B’Tselem reports number of Palestinians held in administrative detention lowest since 2001, but 222 still jailed without being convicted
In Israel 2010, a person can vanish off the face of the earth without anyone knowing: The number of Palestinians held in administrative detention in Israel is now lowest since 2001, but according to a B’Tselem report on the situation of human rights in the West Bank and Gaza, 222 people are still being held in detention without being convicted of anything.
The organization, which released the report on Monday morning, attributes the reduction in the number of administrative detainees to the drop in the amount of violence in the area, rather than to a change in Israel’s policy.
The Justice Ministry, on the other hand, says the reduction stems from Israel’s cautious use of that measure, as well as from the improvement in the security-related situation.
According to the report, the Israeli policy contradicts all the rules of international law regarding the use of administrative detention, while seriously infringing on the detainees’ rights. B’Tselem says Israel is mocking the protection provided by the law, going against freedom and the right for a fair procedure.
‘Like the stone of Sisyphus’
One of those who experienced it first hand is Palestinian journalist Ali Jaradat, who completed his last administrative detention in December.
“The life of an administrative detainee is like the stone in the Sisyphus story. Every time the stone reaches the top of the mountain, it deteriorates once again, and this is the human absurdity of the administrative detention,” he tells Ynet.
Jaradat, who was considered an unofficial spokesman of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian in the past, was arrested several times between 1992 and 2010, and spent a total of 11 years behind bars.
“Apart for the first time, in each of my detention I was not questioned and was not informed what I was arrested for,” he claims. According to him, each time the six months of detention came to an end, his arrest was extended by another six months. “This is mental slaughter for a prisoner, without talking about the ramifications for his family.”
As a journalist and writer, Jaradat compares his situation to that of the hero of “Waiting for Godot”.
“As in the play, you cannot defend yourself,” he explains. “What kills the administrative detainee is the fact that he doesn’t know how to defend himself against some kind of guilt. I may be guilty for writing. Is my crime the fact that I speak about an independent state? (Former Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon believes in an independent state as well, the difference is in the borders of the two states between me and them.
“This is an impossible situation, the mental wait each time the six months of detention end is a mental phenomenon which ruins the prisoner and his family,” he says of the stage in which the detainee waits to find out whether he is about to be released or remain in custody.
“A normal prisoner knows that he will be released after a long or short period, but the administrative detainee doesn’t know, and the uncertainty and wait are the most difficult things.”
Jaradat says that at a certain stage, his health began deteriorating and he started suffering from a heart disease and diabetes. “I joked with the judge. I told him, ‘When you first took me I was young. Today it’s not the same anymore. I don’t know how much time I have left to live, and you keep on extending it by six months.'”
‘No other alternative’
The Justice Ministry said in response to the report, “The administrative detention is a measure taken when there is no other alternative, and it is fully compatible with the rules of international law, and particularly clause 78 in the fourth Geneva Convention.”
The ministry added that “the law enforcement system is making every effort to run a criminal procedure rather than an administrative one, often at the cost of filing a criminal indictment for a less serious offense.”
In addition to the drop in the number of administrative detentions, the B’Tselem report also points to the ease of restrictions on Palestinians in West Bank roadblocks, in a way allowing Palestinians to move between the city centers in a much more convenient manner than in the past.
In early February 2010 there were 44 roadblocks, compared to 62 in 2008. The organization, stresses, however, that there is yet to be a complete freedom of movement.
B’Tselem also addresses the killing of Israeli and Palestinian civilians since the end of Operation Cast Lead, ruling that the number of Palestinian casualties has been the lowest in the past few years – 83, most of the Gaza residents. The organization criticizes Israel’s investigation policy in Palestinian death cases and condemns the execution of Palestinians who cooperated with Israel.
In the report, B’Tselem also criticizes the Gaza siege, the demolition of Palestinian houses, the use of Palestinian lands in favor of new settlements and the separation fence.