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Urgent Interventions

Salwa and Sara released from administrative detention in Israel

Case ISR 070808.3.CC
Follow-up of cases ISR 070808.CC, ISR 070808.1.CC and ISR 070808.2.CC
Girls released from administrative detention

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) received new information on the following situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

New information

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by Defence for Children-Palestine section (hereafter DCI-Palestine), a member organisation of OMCT SOS-Torture network, that on 1 January 2009, Salwa Salah and Sara Siureh were finally released from administrative detention after spending seven months in Addamoun prison in Israel.

On 14 December 2008, the Israeli High Court informed the NGO Addameer[1] that the Military Prosecutors would not be renewing the administrative detention of Salwa and Sarah once the current order ends.

The International Secretariat of OMCT wishes to thank all of the individuals and organisations that have taking action for the release of Salwa and Sara. Nevertheless, their rights having been breached, OMCT considers that, in accordance with international human rights conventions, they deserve remedy.

Furthermore, OMCT remains concerned about the fact that over 600 Palestinians are currently held without charge or trial in adminitrative detention in Israel of which six are children. OMCT recalls that administrative detention infringes the principle according to which deprivation of liberty of a child (below 18 years old) should “be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time” (article 37-b of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Israel is a State party). Moreover, OMCT considers that the mental suffering caused by not knowing the grounds for detention nor the length of detention is contrary to the UN Covention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to both of which Israel is a State party.

Therefore, action should continue so that the Israeli authorities 1) immediately release all administrative detainees in the absence of valid legal charges, or, if such charges exist, bring them before an impartial, independent, competent and fair tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times; and 2) immediately cease the practice of holding persons under the age of 18 in administrative detention.

Reminder of the situation

OMCT was informed that on Thursday June 5 2008, between 1:30 and 2:00 a.m., two 16 year-old girls, Salwa Salah and Sara Siureh were arrested by the Israeli police and Israeli Security Agency (ISA) officers at their respective homes in Bethlehem. In both cases, Israeli forces used excessive force when they arrested the girls by handcuffing and blindfolding Salwa and by storming Sara’s house and shouting at her. Both girls are relatives (cousins). The ISA claimed that the girls were involved in militant activities. However, no charge has ever been issued against them.

Following their arrest, Salwa and Sara were taken briefly to Telmond Prison and then to Ofer Prison where they were interrogated for one hour. During the interrogation, they were allegedly asked about what they were doing and if they had any relations with any political group. The girls did not confess to anything. The girls were taken back to Telmond prison where they spent a couple of days. They were then taken to Addamoun prison.

According to DCI-Palestine and Addameer, a reliable source, military administrative detention orders were issued on 12 June. They justified the girls’ detention on the basis of their supposed involvement in militant activities which were “endangering the security of the area”. The orders have been set for four months (Salwa) and five months (Sara). A military court confirmed the orders on June 18th. An appeal hearing also confirmed the orders on July 16 although Sara's administrative term was reduced from 5 to 4 months. The two girls were detained in Addamoun prison in Israel with Palestinian adult female detainees and were due to be released on October 4.

However, according to the same information, on October 5 2008 both girls were issued a second administrative detention order. On October 6 2008, their appeal was rejected. The military judge Eyal Noon upheld the order for a further three months until January 3, 2009. The judge reportedly considered that girls are still ‘dangerous’ although the military prosecutor has provided no evidence since their arrest. On November 2 2008, the Military Judge of Ofer Military Court rejected the appeal lodged by Salwa Salah and Sara Siureh’s lawyer and consequently confirmed their administrative detention until January 3, 2009.

According to the same source of information, the two girls have been detained for almost seven months. This was the first time that girls under the age of 18 had been put in administrative detention. Neither Salwa and Sara, nor their lawyer, were ever informed of any charges against them, nor the reason for their arrest and detention, thereby violating fundamental due process rights and rendering their entire detention arbitrary and illegal under international law. In addition, their detention conditions failed to meet fundamental human rights standards for the treatment of prisoners. For example, Salwa was denied the right to education while in prison.[2]

In addition to their administrative detention, one should mention that Salwa and Sara reportedly suffered from the excessive use of force during the arrest and extremely abusive behaviour during a transfer from Addamoun to Al Ramle prison on 15 July. At Al Ramle prison, according to the existing procedure, Salwa and Sara were searched: they were asked to strip totally naked while a female officer searched their hair, body and mouth with gloves. They felt the search was humiliating.

Geneva, 15 January 2009

[1] Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.

[2] Salwa was supposed to enter her final year at high school this year but, due to her detention, will have to repeat another year.

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