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Birzeit Student and Human Rights Activist in Detention

Written by admin  •  Thursday, 16.06.2005, 13:28

Press Release, Al Haq, 16 June 2005

REF: 17.2005E
16 June 2005

Al-Haq is outraged at todays decision by the Deputy Military Commander of the West Bank to place Ziyad Muhammad Shehadeh Hmeidan in administrative detention, for an indefinitely renewable period of six months. Administrative detention is the imprisonment of individuals without charge or trial by administrative rather than judicial procedure. Ziyad, 31, lives in al-Khass village near Bethlehem, and has been a fieldworker with Al-Haq since 2000. He is responsible for monitoring and documenting violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the Bethlehem area of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Although no formal charges have been brought against him, nor has the evidence supporting his detention been made available to his lawyer, today Ziyad was issued with an administrative detention order in violation of his most fundamental rights under international law, in particular the right to due process.

Ziyad was detained on 23 May 2005 at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem, while on his way back to Bethlehem from Birzeit University where he is enrolled in postgraduate study. At the time of his hearing today, Ziyad has spent 25 days in detention without any formal charges being brought against him, or being informed of the reasons for his detention. Further, the Israeli authorities have taken measures to inhibit and deny his access to a lawyer; first through transferring him between different detention facilities and then, through an order issued in a hearing on 30 May preventing his access to counsel for eight days. This order, and indeed his subsequent administrative detention, has been justified by security reasons, which have not been disclosed to Ziyad or his legal counsel.

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. It also gives everyone the right, 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 has made it clear in its 1998 periodic review of Israels compliance with the ICCPR, that a State party may not depart from the requirement of effective judicial review of detention. Specifically, according to the Committee, a detained person must be informed promptly of the reasons for detention and must be allowed access to a lawyer within 48 hours of the detention. Moreover, administrative detention must be of a short duration and can not be for an indefinite period. 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. Unquestionably, Ziyads treatment does not conform to these obligations.

Al-Haq is compelled to highlight that Ziyads situation is not unique. Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners support and human rights organisation, estimated that at the end of 2004 there were over 850 Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli prisons. Further, Israels widespread and sustained policy of administrative detention is supported by both the government and the judiciary, denying Palestinian detainees any meaningful protection of their rights.

Al-Haq believes that the Israeli policy of administrative detention violates international human rights and humanitarian law. In the absence of clear charges being brought against Ziyad Hmeidan and provision of a fair trial, we demand his immediate and unconditional release.

– Ends –

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