Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cat and mouse order locks Mohammad up again

AFTER being held for 61 days, so he could be interrogated by Israeli security officers, Palestinian rights campaigner Mohammad Othman has still not been tried, or even charged with any offence. A court on Sunday ordered his release. But he is back in a cell, under an administrative detention order, his first, handed out by a military commander.

The administrative detention order against Mohammad came just one day after a hearing on November 22 at the Military Court of Appeals ended his interrogation period. In the Appeals Court hearing, the judge decided to release Mohammad because no measurable progress had been made during the two months he had been held in interrogation, no external evidence had been brought to the attention of the court and the military prosecution had been unable to formulate substantiated allegations or charges against him.

The judge ordered Mohammad’s release on 10,000 NIS bail (about $2,500 USD) and with the conditions that he not travel outside the occupied Palestinian territory, and that he regularly reports to the Israeli police. However, the military judge also gave the military prosecutor 24 hours to issue an administrative detention order against Mohammad, and remanded Mohammad to detention during this period.

At 6:30 p.m. on November 23, the civil rights and prisoners' aid society Addameer, which had appealed against Mohammad's continued detention, confirmed with the Israeli Security Agency that an administrative detention order had been issued against Mohammad, and that he would not be released. This could come under judicial review on November 25.

Mohammad Othman is an activist with the grassroots campaigning group 'Stop the Wall', opposing the Israeli "security fence"/ annexation wall which cuts his village, Jayyous, off from the villagers' lands. His current troubles started on September 22, when he was arrested as he crossed the Allenby bridge from Jordan, on his way home from a speaking tour in Norway.

Norway's state pension fund recently announced that it was divesting from Elbit Systems, the Israeli company which produces unmanned drones for the military and security systems for the Wall. While supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel were hailing this as a victory (surely for well-targeted rather than general action) it looks like Israeli authorities are taking it out on Mohammad, who met with senior Nowegian officials including Finance Minister Kristen Halvorsen during his trip. In fact, a delegation from the Norwegian fund's Ethics Council had met with Palestinian and Israeli human rights activists, including Mohammad, who accompanied them on a tour of Jayyous and other West Bank villages affected by the Wall.

Addameer is alarmed by reports from Mohammad that he was repeatedly threatened with administrative detention during his two-month long interrogation period. Addameer believes that with these repeated threats, the Israeli interrogation police aimed to coerce Mohammad into giving a false confession to crimes he did not commit. Most recently, on November 19, after Mohammad was transferred back to Kishon detention center from Ohalei Keidar prison in Beersheba where he had been held in a so-called “collaborators’ cell”, he was told by one of the Israeli interrogators that his detention would not be extended again and that he would be placed under administrative detention if he failed to confess.

'Addameer therefore contends that Mohammad’s arrest and administrative detention are completely arbitrary and are a prime example of Israel’s use of administrative detention as a substitute for prosecution, rather than as a preventative measure allowed by international humanitarian law for “imperative reasons of security” or “if the security of the Detaining Power makes it absolutely necessary” (Fourth Geneva Convention, Articles 42 and 78).

'Further, Addameer reiterates the position that Mohammad’s arrest constitutes a violation of a number of international human rights instruments, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Considering that, sixty days after Mohammad’s arrest Israeli authorities have been unable to cite any legitimate suspicions or allegations to justify his detention, and that the Court of Appeals judge directed that Mohammad should be released, Addameer believes that Mohammad is being detained administratively as a punishment for his human rights activism. In addition, there is reason to believe that the Israeli military authorities use Mohammad’s continuous detention as an example to deter other activists, including those active against the occupation and the Annexation Wall in particular, from continuing their human rights work'.


Administrative detention is a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold detainees indefinitely on secret evidence without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. In the occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli army is authorized to issue administrative detention orders against Palestinian civilians on the basis of Military Order 1591. This order empowers military commanders to detain an individual for up to six months renewable periods if they have “reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the area or public security require the detention.” On or just before the expiry date, the detention order is frequently renewed. This process can be continued indefinitely.

There is no explicit limit to the maximum amount of time an individual may be administratively detained, leaving room for indefinite legal detention. The grounds on which someone can be detained under Military Order 1591 are also unclear, leaving it up to the military commanders to decide what constitutes “public security” and “security of the area”. Detainees subject to administrative detention orders are rarely informed of the reasons for their detention; neither are their lawyers. At the judicial review of a detention order, which is held in a closed hearing before a military judge, the judge can uphold, cancel or shorten the order. In most cases, however, administrative detention orders are confirmed for the same periods as those requested by the military commander. Although the detainee can appeal the decision at the judicial review, in practice, the vast majority of appeals are rejected.

For more information about administrative detention and Addameer’s Campaign to Stop Administrative Detention please visit our website: www.addameer.info. For more information about Mohammad’s arrest, please refer to previous statements and updates on the case issued by Addameer and “Stop the Wall”, or directly contact:

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
Tel: +972 (0)2 296 0446 / (0)2 297 0136
Email: info@addameer.ps
Website: www.addameer.info

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