Empty Stomach Battle Reignites: PCHR Calls Upon International Community to Urgently Intervene to Save Maher al-Akhras’ Life
Date: 12 October 2020
Time: 08:30 GMT
Israeli occupation authorities continue to detain Maher al-Akhras, 50-year-old Palestinian, for the 78th consecutive day with no charge or trial under administrative detention despite the deterioration of his health condition as he went into a hunger strike from the first day of his detention on 27 July 2020. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) calls upon the international community to pressure Israeli authorities to release al-Akhras, as there are no legal means to pursue it due to the nature of administrative detention which is executed without charge or trial. PCHR urges the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, to immediately intervene to release al-Akhras.
Upon his arrest, Al-Akhras was taken to Howarah detention center and was later transferred to “Ofer” prison after he announced going into an open hunger strike. Due to the deterioration of his health condition, al-Akhras was transferred to al-Ramlah prison. On 23 September 2020, al-Akhras was admitted to Kaplan Medical Center after his health condition became very critical as he lost consciousness and developed serious health complications.
On Monday, 12 October 2020, the Supreme Court of Israel is supposed to consider the appeal submitted by al-Akhras’ lawyer for his release; this is his third appeal, as al-Akhras’ lawyer submitted an application to release him on 23 September 2020, and the Israeli court ordered to freeze the administrative detention decision without releasing al-Akhras. Hence, the lawyer submitted another application on 01 October 2020, but the court rejected it under the pretext that al-Akhras’ administrative detention decision was already frozen; thus, there was no case to decide on. This proves that the Israeli judiciary attempts to frame al-Akhras’ case into a in a never-ending circle to maintain his detention without charge or trial.
This case brings back to the table the issue of administrative detention practiced by the Israeli authorities under Article (273) of Military Order No. 1651. According to the Military Order, which is based on the 1945 British Mandate-era Emergency Regulations, Israeli authorities may arrest whoever they want without charge or trial and without enabling the detainee or his/her lawyer from learning the reasons of his/her detention. The arrest order is issued by the Israeli District Military Commander and, usually, an Israeli Military judge approves it without discussion.
The arrest is based on information provided by an Israeli intelligence officer in the area, and it is not disclosed in the court, nor is it given to the detainee or their lawyer under pretext that is it confidential. The Israeli Military Judge, who is usually a reserve officer, is the only person who can view this information and adopts it as fact without examination or discussion in the majority of cases. Consequently, the defendant is effectively denied of their right to defense, since there is no charge to refute, and the lawyer cannot provide counter arguments as the information pertinent to the case are unknown to them. Consequently, the defense’s job becomes a ghost-hunting mission.
Currently, 350 Palestinians are detained by Israeli authorities under administrative detention without charge or trial; the number was 431 in January of the same year. Every year, Israeli authorities put hundreds of Palestinian civilians on administrative detention, including children under the age of 18; the detention is often renewed each 3 or 6 months. Some cases were subjected to continued administrative detention for years, some exceeding 10 years. More than 50 thousand administrative detention orders have been issued against Palestinians since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the oPt.
It should be noted that Military Order No. 1651 contradicts with the international commitments on the Israeli occupation as per Article (14) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides the right to a proper judicial trial. PCHR reiterates that the occupation authorities are obligated to respect both the international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the oPt, as confirmed multiple times by treaty bodies that monitor the application of human rights conventions, and in all concluding remarks sent by treaty bodies in reply to Israeli reports on the matter.
The Committee against Torture, which monitors the implementation of the Convention against Torture, asserted this principle in its demand upon Israel on 13 May 2016 to “Urgently take the measures necessary to end the practice of administrative detention and ensure that all persons who are currently held in administrative detention are afforded all basic legal safeguards.”
It should be noted that the number of the administrative detainees varies from time to time, climaxing in 1989 when 1749 Palestinians were put on administrative detention; the numbers decreased gradually largely in response to detainees’ protests, the last of which was to go on open hunger strikes as the last and sole means to protect their dignity and regain their rights. The lowest number of administrative detentions was recorded in 2013, as 150 cases were recorded. Since then, more cases were recorded, and this wave was met with detainees’ determination to regain their rights and defend their dignity by sacrificing their own lives by going on hunger strikes.
Administrative detention is a stark example of the crudeness of the Israeli occupation and its repression, it aims at harming Palestinians and turning their lives into living hell. This is one of the British Mandate’s legacies; yet, Israel one-upped it by allowing indefinite renewals of orders, as opposed to the British Mandate’s law which did not allow renewals.
PCHR expresses its shock at the international silence to the crimes of the Israeli occupation, and at the unjustified delay of international human rights bodies and the free people of the world in intervening to save al-Akhras’ life. PCHR calls upon the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur for the oPt to intervene immediately to save the life of Maher al-Akhras, and to work for his immediate release without further delay.
PCHR calls upon the free people of the world to urge the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to meet and abolish the articles related to administrative detention in the Fourth Geneva Convention, and to criminalize any detention without charge or trial, as such stipulations are unacceptable in the 21st century.
PCHR also calls upon the international community to pressure Israel to uphold its obligations under the international human rights law in the oPt, as well as its obligations under IHL to achieve the greatest protection for civilians under the Israeli occupation.
 B’Tselem, Data on administrative detention in the West Bank, Statistics of September 2020, https://www.btselem.org/administrative_detention/statistics
 Palestinian News and Information Agency (WAFA), “Reality of Administrative Detention in Israeli Prisons”
 Committee Against Torture, Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of Israel, (CAT/C/ISR/CO/5) https://docstore.ohchr.org/SelfServices/FilesHandler.ashx?enc=6QkG1d%2FPPRiCAqhKb7yhsmEKqNhdzbzr4kqou1ZPE79BvBJe97SSM1KP2v4ng3Dhx74ohsby7x4AlEgvGhwtvav7rPvZmtwpwObldkyK%2BM9cNY7svWLlYmp6PB4chW8O
 “Wafa” Palestinian News and Information Agency, “Reality of Administrative Detention in Israeli Prisons” https://info.wafa.ps/ar_page.aspx?id=3944