I was expecting that the subject of this article, Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan, would not be alive by the time this article was published. Adnan, a 33- year old baker and father of two daughters living in the occupied West Bank, is a political activist and spokesman for Islamic Jihad, who was hunger striking against the Israeli practice of administrative detention. His 66-days strike was the longest in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr Adnan was hospitalised and lay shackled to his hospital bed, despite the Israeli authorities’ commitment to unshackle him. However, as I was preparing to write this, Mr Adnan agreed to end his hunger strike in return for the state of Israel releasing him on 17 April.
Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial, authorised by administrative order rather than by judicial decree. Inherited from the pre 1948 British Mandate emergency regulations, administrative detention is deemed illegal by international law, which says it can be used only in the most exceptional cases, as the last means available for preventing danger that cannot be thwarted by less harmful means. Israel has extended the use of administrative detention since it occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, enabling the state to hold prisoners indefinitely without charging them or bringing them to trial.
Khader Adnan’s story is emblematic of many other detainees. Like them, he was taken in a night raid from his home; he claims he was beaten and humiliated by Israeli soldiers and began his hunger strike in protest. Evidence and allegations were not made available to Mr Adnan or his lawyers; the only allegation made was that he is a ‘high risk’ to Israeli security.
According to the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, there are currently 307 administrative detainees not charged with any crime. During the second Intifada the number of detainees rose to the thousands, including children, some of whom are held in solitary confinement without access to their parents or lawyers, for several weeks.
According to Israeli bloggist Joseph Dana, despite criticism of administrative detention by the USA in facilities such as Guantanamo Bay, such criticism has only recently surfaced in Israeli society, even though Mr Adnan’s hunger strike raised widespread protest from international Palestine solidarity campaigns and local Palestinian and Israeli activists.
Like others, I was happy to hear of the end of Mr Adnan’s hunger strike and hope it has not damaged his internal organs beyond repair. His release is a definite victory of the Palestine solidarity movement. However, I agree with Amnesty International that the deal made with Mr Adnan is insufficient and that Khader Adnan can no longer constitute a danger to Israel’s security and should be released immediately. ‘A deal which will see Khader Adnan released on 17 April unless significant new evidence emerges is insufficient when he needs urgent medical treatment to save his life now,’ said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Interim Director for the Middle East and North Africa. I fully endorse Amnesty International’s call on Israel to end the practice of administrative detention now, because it violates the internationally recognised right to a fair trial which must be upheld for all detainees, even during states of emergency.