Israel holding 800 Palestinians without trial: rights group

Israel holding 800 Palestinians without trial: rights group
Rights group HaMoked said that 798 Palestinians are currently being held in 'administrative detention' - a practice where prisoners can be held for months without charge.
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Hundreds of Palestinians are being held by Israeli authorities without charge, according to the rights group [Getty]

Israel is holding nearly 800 Palestinians without trial or charge, the highest number since 2008, an Israeli rights group said on Sunday.

The group, HaMoked, which regularly gathers figures from Israeli prison authorities, said that 798 Palestinians are currently being held in 'administrative detention' - a practice where the prisoners can be held for months, do not know the charges against them and are not granted access to the evidence against them.

The group said the number of those held in administrative detention has risen steadily this year, as Israel conducts nightly arrest raids in the occupied West Bank in response to a spate of attacks against Israelis earlier this year.

Israel claims it uses administrative detention to impede attacks and restrain dangerous militants without revealing sensitive intelligence. Rights groups and Palestinians say it is an abusive system that denies freedom without due process, leaving some Palestinians for months or even years behind bars with no evidence against them made accessible. Some resort to life-threatening hunger strikes to draw attention to their detention, which often drives up tensions between Israel and Palestinians.

“Administrative detention should be an exceptional measure but Israel makes wholesale use of this detention without trial," said Jessica Montell, HaMoked's executive director. "This has to stop. If Israel cannot bring them to trial, it must release all administrative detainees.”

HaMoked said the figure was a new peak in a growing wave of administrative detentions which began last spring following a series of Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank that have killed around 100 Palestinians.

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The Israeli military says some 1,500 Palestinians have been arrested during that time, including those held in administrative detention. It says the raids are necessary to dismantle militant networks and thwart attacks against Israelis. Palestinians say the raids are aimed at maintaining Israel’s 55-year military rule and continuing its brutal occupation. 

The last time Israel held as many administrative detainees, in May 2008, also coincided with an increase in Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Israel's Shin Bet domestic security service did not respond to a request for comment.

Israel occupied the West Bank following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and later annexed it, in violation of international law. Some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank, considered illegal under international law.