8 March 2012 | Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organizations
We, the Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organisations (PCHRO), would like to mark International Women’s Day by expressing our solidarity with administrative detainee Hana Shalabi. Hana is today beginning her 22nd successive day of hunger strike in protest at her internment without charge or trial and her ongoing ill-treatment at the hands of the Israeli authorities.
Hana, 29 years old, previously spent more than two years in administrative detention before she was released in October 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas. Less than four months later she was arrested once more by Israeli authorities at her home near Jenin, when she was beaten with the butt of a rifle by an Israeli soldier. Following her arrest, she was beaten, blindfolded and later forcibly strip-searched and assaulted by an Israeli male soldier. Hana was given a six-month administrative detention order and spent the first three days of her internment in solitary confinement. She was later sentenced to solitary confinement for a further seven days as punishment for her continuing hunger strike.
Internment, also known as administrative detention, is a procedure under which Palestinian detainees are held without charge or trial for periods of up to six months. Detention orders are usually renewed before they expire, and detainees can be held for indefinite periods of time, with several detainees spending up to eight consecutive years in internment. Administrative detainees are held on the basis of “secret material” that is not made available to them or their lawyers, therefore undermining their ability to effectively challenge the detention order.
Israel’s widespread practice of administrative detention, of which Hana Shalabi is yet another victim, constitutes a serious breach of international humanitarian and human rights law. While administrative detention is allowed under international humanitarian law, it must be used only in exceptional circumstances and must uphold fair trial standards, which Israel does not comply with. Israel is currently detaining some 310 Palestinians without charge in administrative detention.
Although no Palestinian is left untouched by the occupation, it is true that women are, in many cases, doubly affected by Israel’s illegal practices. However, internment also affects a large number of Palestinian women indirectly; those wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of detainees who endeavour to maintain community and family structures while they wait indefinitely for their family members to be freed. For example, the wife and daughter of Ahmad Qatamesh, who has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, recently saw his detention order renewed for the third consecutive time. Administrative detention, characterised by renewable detention orders and abusive conditions of imprisonment, constitutes a merciless cycle that attempts to suppress the spirit of both the detainees and their families.
While Hana Shalabi’s internment by way of an inhumane system is representative of the utter disregard in which Israel holds the lives and rights of Palestinians, administrative detention is only one of a wide range of violations perpetrated against Palestinian women in the OPT. Palestinian women and girls are, along with the rest of the Palestinian population, regularly subjected to harassment, intimidation and ill-treatment by Israeli military authorities and as a consequence they are denied the enjoyment of basic human rights such as education, health and freedom of movement. Such treatment amounts to an assault on their dignity and security of person in violation of international law.
The international community of States cannot continue to avert its gaze while Israel refuses to apply international human rights law, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), in the OPT. Israel is not only in violation of the positive duty to implement its obligations under CEDAW, but also, through the imposition of illegal policies such as restrictions on the freedom of movement, is in breach of its negative duty not to interfere in the enjoyment of the rights under the Convention.
PCHRO urges the international community to stand in solidarity with Hana, today of all days, as a first step towards ending its longstanding inaction in the face of Israel’s disregard for international law. Hana should not be forced to wait 66 days before the world sits up and takes notice. Given that Israel does not grant due process and humane treatment to Palestinians, she must be released immediately. By failing to do so, the international community will only contribute to the perpetuation of such violations and add to the climate of impunity that currently prevails in the OPT.