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Israeli Detention
Prisoners at Risk
Prisoners at Risk
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Background on Israeli Detention

On 7 June 1967, the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) issued Military Proclamation No. 1, which stated that all legal authority over the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) would fall in the hands of the Israeli military commander in the “interests of security and public order” - a phrase that would become the basis for the arrest of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians throughout the following decades.

Since then, the Israeli military authorities have issued more than 3,000 military orders, creating a complex military regime that legislates nearly every aspect of Palestinian life and continues to depoliticize Palestinian national aspirations. According to international humanitarian law, any new legislation enacted by the Occupying Power should be limited to regulations protecting the rights of protected persons or the security of the Occupying Power. The military orders issued by Israel, however, extend much beyond these limits and further criminalize any form of opposition to the occupation, legally cementing the oppression of the Palestinian people. New orders often go unannounced or untranslated into Arabic, and the existence of new orders often becomes apparent only when they are implemented. Military orders are also frequently revised, almost impossible to challenge and can apply retroactively.
These orders have been used to detain over 800,000 Palestinians since 1967, representing approximately 20% of the Palestinian population and as much as 40% of the male Palestinian population. Since the beginning of the second intifada, more than 50,000 Palestinians have been arrested, including 15,000 between March and October 2002 alone.
While arrests can occur at any time and in any place, Palestinians are most commonly arrested at checkpoints, off the street, at border crossings and from homes in the middle of the night. Upon arrest, detainees are usually cuffed with plastic handcuffs and blindfolded. Once bound and blindfolded, the detainee may be kept waiting, standing or kneeling, for long periods of time before being thrown on the floor of a military jeep, sometimes face down, for transfer to an interrogation center. During the transfer, which can take up to several hours, Israeli soldiers often abuse detainees. Cases of beatings, kicking, insults, threats and deliberate humiliation are routinely reported. Palestinians detainees are typically not informed of the reason for their arrest, nor are they told where they will be taken. Most children are subjected to the same treatment.
After interrogation, Palestinians arrested by the IOF may either be released; charged and prosecuted through Israeli military courts; or placed in administrative detention, a form of detention without charge or trial.
All but one of the prisons where Israel detains Palestinian prisoners are located inside Israel, in direct contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an Occupying Power must detain residents of occupied territory in prisons inside the occupied territory. In addition to illegality under international law, the practical consequence of this system is that many prisoners have difficulty meeting with Palestinian defense counsel, and do not receive family visits as their attorneys and relatives are denied permits to enter Israel on “security grounds”.

Today, serious doubts remain as to whether Israel has ever been willing to engage in a genuine peace process given that it has never abandoned its policies of unilateralism, settlement expansion and arrests of Palestinians under the sweeping banner of “security”. Tellingly, Israel continues to perceive Palestinian grievances against the prolonged occupation of Palestinian territory as “security” threats or criminal activity, rather than as legitimate acts of political resistance.

For more information on the legal framework of Israel's detention of Palestinians, see:

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