Ramallah, November 23, 2022—Israeli authorities are arbitrarily detaining a 16-year-old Palestinian boy by denying his release from Israeli custody after he completed a custodial sentence in September.
Heavily-armed Israeli forces arrested Jihad Maher Nafez Bani-Jaber, 16, around 3 a.m. on May 3, 2022, from his home in Aqraba, near Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, according to information collected by Defense for Children International – Palestine. Jihad was held in isolation for interrogation purposes for 13 days at Israel’s Petah Tikva interrogation and detention center located in central Israel. While at Petah Tikva interrogation and detention center, Jihad was interrogated several times and was not allowed to consult with a lawyer or have a lawyer present. Israeli military authorities extended his detention up to eight separate times before a charge sheet was issued against him on May 31, 2022 in Israel’s Salem military court.
Jihad was accused of not sharing information with Israeli authorities and agreed to a plea agreement for a four-month sentence, including time spent in isolation and pre-trial detention. The plea agreement was accepted by an Israeli military court judge and Jihad was scheduled to be released on September 1. After completing the four-month sentence, instead of being released from Israeli custody, Israel’s Vice Military Commander for the West Bank issued a four-month administrative detention order against him on September 1, 2022.
“Adding another layer of arbitrariness, Israeli authorities are punishing Jihad twice for the same alleged offense in clear violation of international due process and fair trial guarantees,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “Regardless of guilt or innocence, international standards stipulate that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort and must not be unlawfully or arbitrarily detained.”
Jihad is currently detained at Israel’s Megiddo prison, located inside Israel, north of the occupied West Bank. His current four-month administrative detention order, if not renewed, will expire on December 31, 2022.
Neither Jihad nor his lawyer has been provided with access to any evidence against him. Jihad’s detention is based on “secret information” that has not been provided to him or his lawyer.
On November 10, DCIP submitted a complaint on Jihad’s behalf to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which investigates cases of deprivation of liberty imposed arbitrarily or inconsistently with international standards. Previously, the Working Group has found that Israel’s military tribunals are not independent or impartial because they consist of military personnel that are subject to military discipline and dependent on superiors for promotion.
Administrative detention is a form of imprisonment without charge or trial regularly used by Israeli authorities to detain Palestinians, including children. Palestinian children held under administrative detention orders are not presented with charges, and their detention is based on secret evidence that is neither disclosed to the child nor their attorney, preventing them from preparing a legal challenge to the detention and its alleged basis, according to documentation collected by DCIP.
Arbitrarily depriving Palestinian minors of their right to liberty through the use of administrative detention, which is the imprisonment of individuals for prolonged periods without charge or trial, often based on secret evidence amounting to an arbitrary detention.
Administrative detention orders are issued by the Israeli military commander of the area, or a military officer delegated by the military commander, and can last up to six months, but there is no limit to the number of times an administrative detention order can be renewed. The orders are approved by military court judges giving the illusion of independent legal oversight, yet Israeli military courts fail to meet international standards for independence and impartiality because military court judges are active duty or reserve officers in the Israeli military.
In 2015, following a three-year suspension of the practice, Israeli authorities began arresting and detaining Palestinian children under administrative detention. Since October 2015, DCIP has documented over 50 Palestinian children arbitrarily detained by Israeli authorities in administrative detention, 11 of them during this year of whom seven were still in detention at the end of September, according to information provided by the Israel Prison Service.
In situations of international armed conflict, administrative detention is permitted in strictly limited circumstances in only the most exceptional cases for “imperative reasons of security” when there is no other alternative. The practice should never be used as an alternative to filing charges or as a general deterrent for future activity.
International juvenile justice standards, which Israel has obliged itself to implement by ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, demand that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort and must not be unlawfully or arbitrarily detained.
Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children in military courts each year that lack fundamental fair trial rights.
An estimated 500 Palestinian prisoners are currently detained pursuant to administrative detention orders, according to Addameer.