Ramallah, April 28, 2022—Israeli authorities are unlawfully detaining a Palestinian teen by holding him without charge or trial according to an opinion adopted this month by a United Nations human rights body.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted an opinion during its 93rd session this month finding that Israeli authorities’ imprisonment of Palestinian teen, Mohammad Ghassan Ahmad Mansour, 18, amounts to an arbitrary detention and called for Mansour’s immediate release. Israeli authorities detained Mansour from his family home in the occupied West City of Jenin around 2 a.m. on April 9, 2021 when he was 17 years old. Mansour has been imprisoned without charge or trial pursuant to administrative detention orders ever since.
“Israeli authorities must release Mansour immediately,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “Israeli authorities systematically deny Palestinian detainees basic due process and fair trial rights in the Israeli military court system. Israel’s practice of using administrative detention to deprive Palestinians of their liberty is unconscionable and must end immediately.”
The Working Group found that Mansour’s detention lacks legal basis, that Israeli authorities denied his right to a fair trial, and that he was detained on a discriminatory basis, namely his national, ethnic, and social origin. The opinion noted that Israeli authorities’ use of administrative detention follows familiar patterns of due process rights violations and indicated that “under certain circumstances, widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.”
The Working Group is a body of independent experts that meets three times per year in Geneva, Switzerland to produce reports and investigate individual cases of deprivation of liberty imposed arbitrarily or inconsistently with the international law. The recent Working Group opinion concerning Israeli authorities’ arbitrary detention of Mansour was issued in response to a complaint filed on Mansour’s behalf by Defense for Children International - Palestine in September 2021.
An Israeli military court judge approved a four-month administrative detention order on February 13, 2022, extending the detention of Mansour until at least June 6, 2022, according to information gathered by Defense for Children International - Palestine. This latest administrative detention order is the third consecutive administrative detention order issued by Israeli authorities against Mansour. He is currently detained in Israel’s Megiddo prison located in north of the occupied West Bank.
Previously, an Israeli military judge at Israel’s Ofer military court first approved a six-month administrative detention order against Mansour on April 25, 2021. A second administrative detention order was approved on October 7, 2021, for an additional four-month period.
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.
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.
Previously, the Working Group issued a similar opinion in November 2021 in response to a complaint DCIP filed on behalf of 18-year-old Amal Nakhleh, who, like Mansour was detained by Israeli forces when he was 17 and has been held pursuant to administrative detention orders without charge or trial for over a year.
Israeli forces detained Nakhleh, then 17, on January 21, 2021. An Israeli military court judge approved a six-month administrative detention order against Nakhleh on January 25, 2021, which was reduced to four months on appeal. Since then, Israeli military court judges approved three additional four-month administrative detention orders on May 20, 2021, September 19, 2021, and, most recently, January 13, 2022, according to information gathered by DCIP. The most recent administrative detention order is set to expire on May 17, 2022.
Nakhleh suffers from myasthenia gravis, a rare chronic autoimmune, neuromuscular disease that causes muscle weakness, including in the muscles used for breathing and swallowing. His condition requires ongoing medical treatment and that he take medication regularly and without interruption.
Israeli authorities recently released 17-year-old Wadea E. after he spent 197 days imprisoned without trial or charge. Israeli forces detained Wadea on September 14, 2021 while he was working at a car wash in the city of Al-Taybeh in central Israel. Israeli military court judges approved two administrative detention orders against him before he was released without charge on March 30, 2022.
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.
Between 2012-2014, Israeli authorities briefly suspended the practice of detaining Palestinian children under administrative detention orders. However, since October 2015, DCIP has documented a total of 41 Palestinian children held by Israeli authorities pursuant to administrative detention orders.
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.