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Authorities Renew Detention of Al-Haq Fieldworker and Birzeit Student Ziyad Hmeidan

Written by admin  •  Saturday, 19.11.2005, 13:33
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Update, Al Haq, 19 November 2005

Ziyad Hmeidan is a Masters student at Birzeit University.

On Wednesday, 14 November 2005, Al-Haq field worker and human rights defender, Ziyad Hmeidan, was informed by letter that his administrative detention was to be renewed for a further six months. Ziyad’s initial detention began on 23 May 2005, when he was pulled aside and handcuffed by Israeli occupying forces after handing his ID to a soldier for inspection at Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Over the course of the following month, Ziyad was transferred between various detention facilities both in the West Bank and in Israel, underwent interrogations and was brought before a military court on three separate occasions. In each instance the Israeli military judicial mechanisms complied with the requests of the investigating military official and prosecutor, confirming Ziyad’s detention without charge and further extending it. During part of this time Ziyad was also denied access to a lawyer, and his family were not informed of his whereabouts. This process culminated on 16 June 2005 with Ziyad being placed in administrative detention for six months by the Deputy Military Commander of the West Bank. At no point in the proceedings were Ziyad or his legal counsel informed of the charges against him, or the reasons for his arrest. Further, the information that ultimately confirmed Ziyad’s administrative detention was not made available to him or his lawyer. To date, still no charges have been brought against Ziyad.

In addition to the obvious flaws in the legal process leading to his administrative detention, and the illegality of the detention itself, the Israeli authorities consistently frustrated Al-Haq’s efforts to assist Ziyad and guarantee the protection of his fundamental rights under international law. Ziyad was moved between detention centres, denied access to Al-Haq’s lawyers, and court dates were shifted, preventing Al-Haq and other observers from attending the proceedings. In addition, Al-Haq’s request to be informed of the reasons for Ziyad’s arrest and detention, and the charges against him, went unanswered by the Israeli authorities.

This strategy of frustration has not changed. Ziyad’s administrative detention was due to end on 23 November 2005, at which point his case would be reviewed. However, any action Al-Haq or other local and international human rights organisations had planned to take in relation to this process was pre-empted by the Israeli authorities on 14 November 2005, when he received a letter extending his detention. This extension will be reviewed by a military judge in approximately one week and, if the outcome is negative, an appeal will be brought in three to four weeks.

Of great concern to Al-Haq is that Ziyad is detained at the Ansar III (Ketziot) detention centre in the Naqab (Negev) desert, where he has been held since 3 July 2005. The prison is infamous for its poor conditions, in which detainees are held in open areas, with little protection from the harsh climate. Each section is surrounded by nine-metre tall concrete walls, with a metal grid as a roof. In each section there are six five-by-eight-metre tents, housing 20 people each, along with three showers and three toilets. Accounts of the dire living conditions, including vermin problems, inadequate food, poor sanitary conditions and lack of medical care, are numerous.

Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Israel is a State Party, guarantees to everyone the right not to be subjected to arbitrary detention, and if arrested to be promptly informed of the reasons for the arrest and of any criminal charges. While Israel has derogated from its obligations under this article, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) has made it clear in its periodic reviews of Israel’s compliance with the ICCPR, that it is concerned that Israel’s practice of administrative detention violates essential rights protected in the Covenant. Further, the HRC has held that the requirement of effective judicial review of detention cannot be derogated from. At a minimum this would require that the detainee be informed of the reasons for detention. In addition, the right to a fair trial is guaranteed under international humanitarian law. The legal principle that no one may be convicted or sentenced, except pursuant to a fair trial affording all essential judicial guarantees, has been deemed customary by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Moreover, both international humanitarian and human rights law firmly establish that detained persons are to be treated humanely and with respect.

Unquestionably, both the process through which Ziyad was placed in administrative detention, the renewal of his detention, and the conditions in the prison, are in violation of fundamental principles of international law. This illegality is compounded by the fact that there is no justification for Ziyad’s ongoing detention. He must therefore be released.

For more information on Ziyad’s case please visit Al-Haq Fieldworker Ziyad Hmeidan in Administrative Detention in the ‘Updates’ section of Al-Haq’s website: www.alhaq.org

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