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Detention without trial – a routine practice targeting Palestinians

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Picture: Supplied – While the apartheid era of abuse, torture and death in detention ended with the dawn of democracy, the same cannot be said about Israel, where detention without trial is routinely practised in violation of the rights of Palestinians, the writer says.

By Iqbal Jassat

“Detention Without Trial” defined Apartheid South Africa’s notorious jailing of political opponents without regard for human rights nor due process.

An unsavoury act to intimidate and crush resistance by activists viewed as threats to white supremacy, detention without trial was used in response to growing militancy by the liberation movements led by the ANC and PAC.

Though it initially was limited to 12 days detention without trial, it was extended to 90 days and later to 180 days. Not satisfied with the “limited time”, Apartheid securocrats finally changed it to allow for indefinite detention without trial.

While this era of abuse, torture and death in detention ended with the dawn of democracy, the same cannot be said about Israel, where detention without trial is routinely practised in violation of the rights of Palestinian detainees.

Although Israel, the settler colonial regime in occupation of Palestine, refers to it as “Administrative Detention” in an effort to “soften” outrage against it, it remains as notorious as South Africa’s “detention without trial”.

Samidoun, an NGO engaged in defence of Palestinian prisoners, reminds us that administrative detention orders are issued by the military and approved by military courts on the basis of “secret evidence”.

Consider the irony of Israel, hailed by the US, Europe and supporters in South Africa as the “only democracy” in the Arab world, subjecting Palestinians to military courts.

And worse, applying gestapo-tactics by withholding evidence concealed as “secret” from both Palestinian detainees and their legal teams.

Reminiscent of the apartheid-era’s 180 days, Zionist military courts issue detention orders up to 6 months at a time. The arbitrary powers wielded by the jailers, makes the period renewable indefinitely.

Palestinians – including minor children – spend years jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention.

It is thus not uncommon to see hundreds of Palestinians going on hunger strike to secure their freedom and raise outrage and awareness of the cruelty of arbitrary detention.

Though illegal under international law, Israel continues to defy conventions with impunity.

Samidoun points out that the cruelty associated with administrative detention is a form of psychological torture and collective punishment targeting Palestinian families, as detainees are unable to predict or plan their release.

The case of French-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri, ordered once again to administrative detention at Hadarim prison as a political prisoner, is a damning indictment of the Zionist regime’s tyranny.

Hamouri is one of approximately 820 Palestinians jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention, out of 4,750 total Palestinian political prisoners in the pariah regime’s jails.

Also he was one of six Palestinian human rights defenders who were proven to be illegally surveilled through the infamous “Pegasus” spyware.

As was the case in South Africa, detention without trial or administrative detention draws its legacy from British colonialism. Adopted and significantly “improvised” to exert maximum pressure on detainees, the Zionist regime applies it on Palestinians, with impunity and in total disregard of international law.

Jassat is an executive at the Media Review Network in Johannesburg, South Africa.