Administrative Detention and Its Effects on Palestinian Families

26 June 2008

The Israeli Military has used Administrative detention in the past 10 years as a tool to dispel political dissent and break up Palestinian resistance, both armed and non-violent. It is also used as a way to disrupt the fabric of Palestinian communities. According to B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, between 1999 and 2001 the average number of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons under administrative detention, that is, without charge or trial, was less than 20. This number significantly rose during the second intifada and was over 500 by 2003. Yet the use of administrative detention, which is ostensibly used to imprison immediate threats to Israeli security, has increased since the end of the second intifada, and it continues to rise even in this time of a so-called peace process. in 2008 an average of over 900 Palestinians were being held in Israeli military prisons, including Mousa Abu Maria, PSP co-founder and non-violence activist; his nephew, Omar Abu Maria, age 17; and several others from Beit Ommar. This has prompted PSP to begin working with Palestinian, Israeli and international groups to bring more attention to the use of administrative detention and pressure on the Israeli government to release all Palestinian political prisoners.

PSP traveled to the village of Taffuah, Hebron District, to interview the families of Shaher Sadiq Irziqat, 35, who has been in administrative detention for 10 months and his cousin, Ramadan Mohammed Irziqat, 23, who was detained at the same time.

Shaher is a farmer and father of 3. One night 10 months ago Israeli soldiers broke the window in the door of his house and entered. He and his family live with his mother, who has a degenerative bone disease and cannot walk on her own, and his father who is in his mid-sixties. Though he had never been arrested before he was declared a security threat. After first being “sentenced” to 6 months in prison, his imprisonment was then extended twice by three months each time. A majority of Palestinians in administrative detention remain in prison for more than a year.

Visitation of administrative detainees is severely restricted as well. Most administrative detainees are held in prisons inside Israel, and are only permitted visits by their immediate family members, facilitated by the International Red Cross. Therefore family members wishing to visit their imprisoned loved ones must first get travel permits into Israel, which are not often granted. Often times children of prisoners who are allowed to travel into Israel under the age of 16, are forced to visit by themselves. In Shaher’s case, when his wife and three small children went to visit him recently, the prison guards, who often humiliate and abuse not only the prisoners but those who visit them, assaulted his 3 year old son, slamming a door into the back of his head and creating a large cut. To make matters worse Shaher was not even allowed to see his son, let alone hold him, as visits are conducted through telephone with a window painted black in between.

Shaher’s cousin, Ramadan, was arrested the same night as Shaher, and has also had his detention renewed twice for a total so far of 10 months. His family has been particularly hard hit by his absence because his wife, who was pregnant at the time of his imprisonment, has now given birth to a son Ramadan has never held, though he was taken with his mother to visit his father for the first time two months ago. Since that time, no one in the family has been able to get permission to enter Israel and visit him again. Ramadan’s family is also suffering greatly economically due to the loss of their one wage-earner. His daughter, age 2, has a heart condition which will soon require surgery, an expense the family has no way of affording.

Perhaps the most devastating element of having a family head of household being held in administrative detention is the perpetual state of not knowing the future. No one knows when their father/husband/son/brother is coming home.