Israel and The Occupied Territories
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
The number of terrorist attacks by armed individuals decreased during the year, while attacks by rocket and mortar fire increased. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, militant groups launched 46 projectiles from the Gaza Strip, and there were 21 incidents of mortar fire or cross-border firing from Syria.
The wave of uncoordinated attacks, which began in September 2015, mostly by lone attackers not directed by any organization, decreased during the year. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during the year terrorist attacks killed eight persons and injured 62. Inside the Green Line, the location of attacks included West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Netanya, Petah Tikva, Rahat, and Ramle. Most of the attackers were Palestinians from the West Bank, and four were Arab citizens of Israel. A much higher number of attacks occurred in the West Bank and Jerusalem (see annex).
For example, a bar on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv was the site of an attack on January 1, when Arab citizen of Israel Nashat Milhem killed two persons, injured eight others, and later killed a taxi driver. Security forces killed Milhem after a weeklong hunt.
On June 8, Palestinian cousins Khaled and Mahmoud Mahamrah fired on customers in a Tel Aviv marketplace, killing four Israelis. Authorities captured the two gunmen and indicted them for murder on July 4 in Tel Aviv District Court. Authorities indicted Yunis Aish Musa Zin, from the same West Bank town, on charges of aiding and abetting a terrorist attack. The cases continued as of the end of the year.
On October 25, the Egyptian military shot and killed 15-year-old Arab citizen of Israel Nimer Abu Amer, who was accompanying relatives employed in maintenance work on the border fence between Israel and Egypt by a contractor for the Ministry of Defense. An investigation was underway as of November 1.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law does not refer to a specific crime of torture but prohibits acts such as assault and pressure by a public official. In 1999 the Supreme Court ruled that although torture and the application of physical or psychological pain were illegal, Israeli Security Agency (ISA) interrogators might be exempt from criminal prosecution if they used such methods in extraordinary cases determined to involve an imminent threat, the “ticking bomb” scenario. Human rights organizations such as the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Defense for Children International-Palestine, and Military Court Watch reported that “physical interrogation methods” permitted by Israeli law and used by security personnel could amount to torture. The methods included beatings, forcing an individual to hold a stress position for long periods, and painful pressure from shackles or restraints applied to the forearms. The government insisted it did not use any interrogation methods prohibited by the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).
NGOs continued to criticize other alleged detention practices they termed abusive, including isolation, sleep deprivation, unnecessary shackling, denying access to legal counsel, and psychological abuse such as threats to interrogate family members or demolish family homes.
In May a report in the newspaper Ha’aretz alleged that Israeli soldiers abused three Palestinian minors from Gaza for three days after their arrest in October 2015. The abuse included being stripped, kicked, sleep deprived, beaten with a rifle butt, and burned with cigarette butts. After the three minors completed sentences of four to six months, authorities released them from prison and returned them to Gaza. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) stated that the allegations were under investigation by the Military Advocate General.
The government established the Turkel Commission to implement the findings of the 2010 report of the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident–the interception and capture by the Israeli Navy of ships carrying humanitarian aid bound for Gaza. Following the publication of the Turkel Commission’s Second Report in 2013, which examined the country’s mechanisms for investigating alleged violations of the laws of war, the government in 2014 established a team of professionals led by Joseph Ciechanover to recommend practical steps to implement the recommendations of that report.
The Ciechanover report, released in September 2015, found that overall the country’s internal mechanisms for investigating and prosecuting alleged war crimes, many initiated following and in response to the Turkel Commission report, were sufficient and unbiased. Civil society groups criticized the Ciechanover Commission for deferring a decision to impose responsibility on military commanders and civilian superiors for offenses committed by their subordinates. The Ciechanover Commission opted instead to recommend that: “[T]he question of the explicit anchoring of the responsibility of military commanders and civilian superiors in Israeli law would continue to be examined by the relevant parties before being decided.” The report also recommended increasing and clarifying civilian oversight (via the attorney general) of the military justice system. In July the security cabinet adopted the report’s recommendations. In the context of the Ciechanover report, and in response to more than 60 complaints of soldier violence that the military closed without response from 2014 to September, the Supreme Court ruled in September that complaints should be examined within 14 weeks.
Authorities continued to state the ISA held detainees in isolation only in extreme cases and when there was no alternative option and that it did not use isolation as a means of augmenting interrogation, forcing a confession, or as punishment. The government rejected claims that interrogations of minors breached the convention, claiming that reforms implemented since 2008 improved the treatment of Palestinian minors, including the establishment of a Juvenile Military Court, raising the age of majority to 18 years old, introducing a special statute of limitation for minors, improving notification to a minor’s family and the minors themselves regarding their rights, and reducing detention periods (see annex). An independent Inspector for Complaints Against ISA Interrogators in the Ministry of Justice handled complaints of misconduct and abuse in interrogations.
In contrast to criminal cases investigated by police for crimes with a maximum imprisonment of 10 years or more, in which regulations require recording interrogations, an extended temporary law exempts the General Security Services from audio and video recording of interrogations of “security suspects.” The Ciechanover report recommended installing cameras in all ISA interrogation rooms that broadcast to a control room in real time, via closed-circuit. The government’s implementation team recommended locating this control room in an ISA facility where interrogations are not conducted and that it be accessible and available to a supervising entity from the Ministry of Justice at any time. According to the recommendation, the supervising entity will prepare a concise memorandum on what the observer saw, but no other record will be kept. In the event that the supervising entity believes that interrogators used illegal means during the interrogation, the observer must report the matter to the Inspector for Complaints against ISA Interrogators in the Ministry of Justice. Human rights NGOs, criticizing this mechanism as insufficient to prevent and identify torture since there is no recording of interrogations for later accountability and judicial review, submitted a petition to the Supreme Court opposing it in June 2015. The case continued as of November 7.
According to PCATI, despite more than 800 complaints of torture by detainees in Israel since 2001–in 15 percent of which cases the government acknowledged that the torture took place–the government had never brought criminal charges against an interrogator. Authorities had never indicted an ISA interrogator for torture during an investigation, but they stated every complaint was investigated and reviewed at the level of the deputy state prosecutor, at a minimum. Some complaints led to disciplinary action. PCATI reported 41 new cases of alleged torture as of September 13.
The UN Committee Against Torture, in its May review of the country’s compliance with UNCAT, recommended, among 50 other recommendations, that the government provide for independent medical examinations for all detainees. PCATI added that medical personnel should be trained and equipped to identify, document, and report all allegations and evidence of torture.
PCATI stated the government’s system for investigating allegations of mistreatment of detainees was complex and fragmented. For example, allegations against police and the ISA are investigated by two separate departments of the Police Investigation Department in the Ministry of Justice State Attorney’s Office, with different procedures. The National Prison Wardens Investigation Unit is responsible for investigating allegations against members of the Israel Prison Service (IPS). PCATI reported that this fragmentation created a disorganized system characterized by widely varying response times and professional standards. PCATI noted that victims often did not know the institutional affiliations of the perpetrators and that complaints were often passed from one organization to another for months or years, each authority denying jurisdiction in the case.
In December 2015 the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by prisoners under questioning for alleged involvement in a terror attack in Duma, the West Bank, in July 2015. The prisoners’ lawyer claimed the ISA prevented the prisoners from meeting with a lawyer and alleged ISA interrogators used illegal methods against the prisoners, including physical force and sleep deprivation. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel called on the Ministry of Justice to investigate the allegations. The Ministry of Justice took no action during the year.
The ISA reported the number of hate crimes by Jews dropped significantly after the Duma attack, including only one in the first eight months of the year, compared with 14 hate crimes in 2015 prior to the attack. A September report by Ha’aretz alleged that the government denied legal counsel to dozens of Jews arrested by the ISA in recent years for up to three weeks, which their lawyers claimed unfairly targeted settlers.
On May 22, plainclothes Border Police officers beat an Arab citizen of Israel, Maysam Abu Alqian, outside the supermarket where he was working in central Tel Aviv. After requesting to see his identification, the officers beat Alqian severely. The officers later alleged that he attacked them, but the Tel Aviv District Court ordered him released the day after his arrest. On May 31, police internal investigations unit announced that they were investigating the incident. As of November 4, the case remained under investigation.
The government’s investigation into the death of Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat, who died in custody at Megiddo Prison in 2013, concluded in August 2015 when a judge ruled that the cause of death was uncertain, after taking into account differing forensic opinions. He ruled that most of the bruises were likely caused by resuscitation efforts and that the other bruises did not lead to Jaradat’s death.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
The law provides prisoners and detainees the right to conditions that do not harm their health or dignity. Conditions in permanent detention facilities run by the IPS generally met international standards, according to the International Commission of the Red Cross (ICRC), but an Israel Bar Association inspection visit at Neve Tirza, a women’s prison, revealed major flaws, including unacceptable physical conditions, misuse of solitary confinement, and violence against prisoners. African migrants and asylum seekers detained in the Holot detention facility complained of severe cold in winter, heat in summer, and poor food quality. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, authorities provided detainees with a bed, clothes, clean towels, food, free medical care, and air-conditioned living quarters. The facility offered classes and professional training, and detainees received a monthly allowance of 480 shekels ($127). NGOs reported, however, that very few detainees participated in the classes, and authorities regularly docked detainees’ monthly allowance for minor infractions.
Since 2014 NGOs have had access to Holot, and in September the government reported that five NGOs visited the facility on a periodic basis. The NGO Hotline for Refugees and Migrants (HRM) reported its representatives could access Saharonim Prison by providing authorities with the name and prison identification number of the detainee who had requested their assistance, but they could not move about and engage with individuals in the facility freely and, therefore, could not obtain new detainees’ names and prison numbers. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported it could regularly access Saharonim, Givon, and Holot detention facilities by submitting a request in advance. The ICRC reported that the IPS granted it access to protected persons, including migrants in detention.
There were reports of mistreatment and abuse by Nachshon, the IPS transportation unit. For example, in May Ha’aretz reported that Nachshon prevented prisoners from drinking water or using the toilet for 11 hours during a routine transfer from Ramle to a prison in northern Israel. The guards provided them with a sandwich. According to the report, these circumstances forced some of the prisoners to urinate in the transport vehicle, after which all the prisoners sat in the urine for the remainder of the trip.
Physical Conditions: As of December 18, according to the government, there were 9,555 prisoners in IPS facilities in Israel and the occupied territories who were citizens of Israel, 10,488 prisoners who were residents, and 6,599 Palestinian prisoners. As of September 8, the government reported 49 minors who were citizens or residents of Israel and 77 Palestinian minors. Of the total prisoner population, 6,815 were characterized as security prisoners as of December 18. These prisoners often faced harsher conditions than those of the general prison population, including increased incidence of administrative detention, restricted family visits, ineligibility for temporary furloughs, and solitary confinement. According to an interministerial team established to address racism against Israelis of Ethiopian origin, the percentage of minors of Ethiopian origin in prison was nearly 10 times their proportion of the population, comprising 18.5 percent of the inmates in Ofek Prison for juveniles as of June. Data from the Public Defender’s Office, reported byHa’aretz in September, revealed that the proportion of Ethiopian Israeli minors convicted of crimes sentenced to prison instead of treatment was nearly 90 percent, which was three times the percentage for non-Ethiopian Jewish minors and almost double that of minors who are Arab citizens of Israel. The publication +972 Magazine reported in September that it obtained data indicating 60 percent of the prisoners in Israeli prisons were Arab.
In response to a petition by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), in January the Supreme Court ordered the government to explain within 120 days why the average prison cell size was less than 43 square feet. According to ACRI, the average size was 32 square feet. The government replied that it would take steps to decrease the number of prisoners, thereby increasing the average living space per prisoner. A follow-up hearing was scheduled for February 2017.
In 2015 the Knesset passed a law authorizing force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners under specific conditions; however, the Israel Medical Association declared the legislation unethical and urged doctors to refuse to implement it. Security prisoners organized several open-ended hunger strikes during the year to demand the government end administrative detention and to protest prison conditions. Mohammad al-Qiq, a Palestinian journalist detained on suspicion of affiliation and contact with Hamas, ended a 94-day hunger strike in February after authorities agreed not to extend his administrative detention past May 21. Authorities placed Bilal Kayed in administrative detention on June 13, just before completing a sentence of 14 and one-half years for attempted murder and membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and he went on hunger strike for 71 days before reaching a similar agreement with security services in August. From July to September, brothers Mahmoud and Muhammad al-Balbul went on hunger strike for more than 70 days, and Malik al-Qadi for more than 60 days, before reaching similar agreements. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) expressed strong opposition to the continuous shackling of detainees throughout their hunger strike–both hand and leg in the case of Muhammad al-Balbul–which PHR-I claimed was not based on any danger after two months of hunger striking, but rather on the government’s efforts to break the strike. The government stated that the IPS reduced restraints to the minimum necessary, and it reassessed the need for restraints every few days.
On August 11, the district court in Be’er Sheva ruled that independent doctors such as PHR-I, hunger striker Bilal Kayed’s authorized representative, could not examine him because the ICRC was already examining him. The ICRC noted their medical doctor assesses the overall medical condition and treatment of detainees on hunger strike but does not act in the role of a treating physician. According to PHR-I, in contravention of Israel’s Law of Patient Rights, which states that a patient has the right to receive a copy of his own medical records, Barzilai Medical Center declined to provide Kayed’s records, referring PHR-I instead to the IPS.
Palestinian Yasser Diab Hamdouna, 41, died in an Israeli prison on September 25. Palestinian media reported that the cause was a stroke or heart attack and accused the IPS of medical neglect. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that he collapsed while exercising and was pronounced dead after receiving unsuccessful medical treatment. As of November 6, according to the ministry, nine other prisoners also died in IPS prisons: six from a heart attack or heart condition, two from suicide, and one from cancer.
NGOs reported lack of access to legal and social services in detention centers for irregular migrants. Social workers provided individual social and supportive treatment, with emphasis on identifying and providing services for trafficking victims, victims of abuse, and victims of sexual violations.
Administration: While authorities generally allowed visits from lawyers and stated that every inmate who requested to meet with an attorney was able to do so, this was not always the case. NGOs alleged authorities did not allow Palestinian detainees, including minors, access to a lawyer during their initial arrest. Travel restrictions on entry into the country affected the access of lawyers and other visitors to some Palestinian prisoners. The government granted permits to family members from the West Bank on a limited basis and restricted those entering from Gaza more severely. In November 2015 the IPS reportedly issued regulations limiting members of the Knesset (MKs) to one visit per month, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied any such regulation exists.
The law allows prisoners to submit a petition to judicial authorities alleging substandard prison conditions, and the government stated that authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions, documented such investigations, and released the results publicly. The state comptroller serves as ombudsman and investigates public complaints against government institutions, including the IPS.
Independent Monitoring: The ICRC regularly monitored IPS facilities for irregular migrants, including Holot and Saharonim, and the two IDF provisional detention centers. The ICRC monitored all facilities in accordance with its standard modalities, except for urgent or isolated cases raised bilaterally with the concerned authorities (that is, relating to the composition of the visiting team and the conditions for interviews without witnesses). PCATI continued to press for structural reforms, including mandatory video recordings of interrogations. The Public Defenders’ Office is officially responsible for monitoring and reporting on prison conditions, which it does every two years. The most recent report was issued in July 2015.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions for all citizens. Authorities subjected non-Israeli residents of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the same laws as Israeli citizens. Noncitizens of Palestinian origin detained on security grounds fell under military jurisdiction even if detained in Israel (see annex).
With regard to irregular migrants, the most recent amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law, passed in 2014, allows the government to detain migrants and asylum seekers who arrived after December 2014 for three months in the Saharonim Prison facility “for the purpose of identification and to explore options for relocation of the individual.” The law also states that authorities must bring irregular migrants taken into detention to a hearing within five days and inform them of their rights, including the right to legal counsel. After three months in Saharonim, the government may then hold them for 12 months in Holot, a remote, semi-open facility run by the IPS. Authorities closed Holot from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and required daily check-in at 10 p.m. (see section 2.d.). Authorities did not confine detainees to their rooms during the night, but they could not leave the facility.
Authorities soon replaced the 1,178 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants released from the Holot facility after an August 2015 Supreme Court ruling with new 12-month detainees. In accordance with the Supreme Court decision, authorities may hold detainees for only one year without charging them with any offenses. The government barred those freed from Holot from living or working in either Tel Aviv or Eilat, where they would have supportive communities and access to the limited medical facilities and other social services available to the migrant population. In August authorities stopped summoning asylum seekers from Darfur or Sudan to Holot; however, many Darfuri detainees already in Holot were not released early.
The most recent amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law also allows authorities to send those who fail to renew their visas on time to Holot for up to 120 days. The Ministry of Interior provided renewal services in Tel Aviv, Be’er Sheva, and Eilat. HRM reported that authorities required asylum seekers applying to renew their visa to provide a copy of a lease agreement and a current wage slip in support of their application, yet applicants could not obtain those documents without a visa, creating a vicious cycle. The law prohibits detention in Holot based on certain factors including age, health, gender, or other protected status. Authorities can send those who violated rules at Holot to Saharonim Prison. HRM reported that authorities sent more than half of Holot detainees to Saharonim for up to several months for various infractions.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
Under the authority of the prime minister, the ISA combats terrorism and espionage in the country and the occupied territories. The national police, including the border police and the immigration police, are under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Security. The IDF is responsible for external security and has no jurisdiction over Israeli citizens. ISA forces operating in the occupied territories fall under the IDF for operations and operational debriefing. The Ciechanover report (see section 1.c.) clarified that the Ministry of Justice and its investigators and the IDF and its investigators would divide investigative and prosecutorial responsibilities in incidents in which police operated under the authority of the military. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the ISA and police forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The government took steps to investigate allegations of the use of excessive force by police and military. NGOs continued to criticize the extremely low number of indictments issued relative to the number of investigations opened and the high percentage of cases closed due to investigation failures by military police. In May human rights NGO B’Tselem announced that it would no longer refer complaints to the military law enforcement system.
The Department for Investigation of Police Officers (DIPO) in the Ministry of Justice is responsible for investigating complaints against ISA bodies, including incidents involving police and the border police occurring on Israeli territory and Jerusalem and incidents taking place in the occupied territories that do not involve the use of a weapon. In 2015 DIPO reviewed more than 3,500 cases and reached decisions in 640, of which 102 cases ended in criminal indictments (leading to 87 convictions) and 85 in disciplinary proceedings. DIPO closed 974 cases without further investigation, and it closed another 843 following a preliminary examination.
Investigative responsibility for alleged abuses by the IDF, including incidents involving a weapon in which police units were operating under IDF authority in the occupied territories, remains with the Ministry of Defense in the Military Police Criminal Investigations Department. During the year authorities arrested or detained four soldiers, convicted 11 (including nine indicted in prior years), and sentenced 12 (including 10 indicted in prior years).
Human rights NGOs continued to allege that accountability mechanisms precluded serious internal investigations by the military and were marred by severe structural flaws that rendered them incapable of conducting professional investigations.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
Police must have warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by an authorized official to arrest a suspect. The following applies to detainees, excluding those in administrative detention: Authorities generally informed such persons promptly of charges against them; the law allows authorities to detain suspects without charge for 24 hours prior to bringing them before a judge, with limited exceptions allowing for up to 48 hours; authorities generally respected these rights for persons arrested in the country; there was a functioning bail system, and detainees could appeal decisions denying bail; and authorities allowed detainees to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, including one provided by the government for the indigent, and to contact family members promptly.
Authorities detained most Palestinian prisoners arrested by Israeli security forces in the occupied territories extraterritorially in Israel. The government stated that the establishment of new prisons in the West Bank could adversely affect detainees’ living conditions and affect local residents on whose land the new prisons would be built. Authorities prosecuted them under the Israeli military law applicable to the occupied territories, which denies many of the rights Israeli law would grant them. According to the circumstances of each case, such as the severity of the alleged offense, status as a minor, risk of escape, or other factors, authorities either granted or denied bail to noncitizens of Palestinian origin detained for security violations.
Authorities may prosecute persons detained on security grounds criminally or hold them as administrative detainees or illegal combatants, according to one of three legal regimes. First, under a temporary law on criminal procedures, repeatedly renewed since 2006, the IPS may hold persons suspected of a security offense for 48 hours prior to bringing them before a judge, with limited exceptions allowing the IPS to detain a suspect for up to 96 hours prior to bringing the suspect before the senior judge of a district court. In security-related cases, authorities may hold a person for up to 35 days without an indictment (versus 30 days for other than security-related cases), and the law allows the court to lengthen the holding of a detainee on security grounds for an initial period of up to 20 days for interrogation without an indictment (versus 15 days for other than security-related cases). Authorities may deny security detainees access to an attorney for up to 21 days under Israeli law or 60 days under military regulations.
Second, the Emergency Powers Law allows the Ministry of Defense to detain persons administratively without charge for up to six months, renewable indefinitely. As of October authorities issued administrative detention orders against 20 Israeli citizens, most of them Arabs. In 2015, following several arson attacks in Israel and the West Bank, the government announced it would expand administrative detention to Jewish extremists suspected of terrorist activity. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that, as of the beginning of December, authorities issued 1,764 administrative detention orders against 1,037 Palestinian adults, 29 administrative detention orders against 19 Palestinian minors over the age of 14, and none to minors under the age of 14 years old. Additionally, authorities issued 106 administrative restraining orders against 42 Israeli adults, 42 orders against 11 Israeli minors, seven orders against Palestinian adults, and none against Palestinian minors (see annex).
Third, the Illegal Combatant Law permits authorities to hold a detainee for 14 days before review by a district court judge, deny access to counsel for up to 21 days with the attorney general’s approval, and allow indefinite detention subject to twice-yearly district court reviews and appeals to the Supreme Court.
While international law allows the use of administrative detention in rare “ticking time bomb” scenarios, civil society organizations and some MKs continued to criticize the government for using it excessively, adding that the practice was undemocratic since there was no due process. The government claimed that it issued administrative detention orders “against those who plan terrorist attacks, or those who orchestrate, facilitate, or otherwise actively assist in the commission of such acts when the evidence against those individuals cannot be revealed for security reasons,” and it is a preventive measure of last resort. The government said it used administrative restraining orders only “when it is necessary to protect security and order and when it is not possible to use penal measures for various reasons.”
Arbitrary Arrest: An annual report from the Office of the Public Defender on September 4 highlighted indictments on issues of trivial importance or against persons who break the law to obtain basic needs such as food, electricity, water, or housing. In 2015 there were allegations of arbitrary arrests of Arab citizens during protests, as well as such arrests of Ethiopian-Israelis.
Pretrial Detention: Administrative detention continued to result in lengthy pretrial detention for security detainees, who were mostly Palestinian; some, however, were Jewish Israelis or Arab citizens of Israel. Authorities held most detainees for less than one year but held some for more than one year and a small number for more than two years.
Detainees’ Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: An administrative detainee has the right to appeal any decision to lengthen detention to a military court of appeals and then to the Supreme Court, and both Palestinian and Jewish detainees routinely did so. The military courts may rely on classified evidence denied to detainees and their lawyers when determining whether to prolong administrative detention. There is no system whereby authorities may clear a defense team member to view classified information used to justify holding an administrative detainee. Some detained Jewish youths, alleged to belong to extremist organizations, questioned the validity of their arrest and use of administrative detention, house arrest, and administrative orders banning them from certain areas of the West Bank.
Protracted Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: The Prevention of Infiltration Law defines all irregular border crossers as “infiltrators” and permits authorities to detain irregular migrants, including asylum seekers and their children.
In 2014 the Supreme Court struck down the section of the Prevention of Infiltration Law that allowed irregular migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, to be detained in the Holot open facility indefinitely. In August 2015 the Supreme Court set the limit at one year. This resulted in the release of 1,178 asylum seekers from Holot; authorities soon replaced them with other asylum seekers. The government may still hold irregular migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, in Saharonim Prison for three months on arrival and then move them to Holot for 12 months. The Supreme Court’s ruling affirmed the use of the Holot facility to house irregular migrants, albeit for a limited period.
Under the Law of Entry, the Ministry of Interior and police developed an outline of cooperation that allows for detention of irregular migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers living in the community and suspected of criminal activity, based on an administrative order rather than through the legal process.
The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. (The annex covers military court trials of Palestinians and others in the occupied territories.)
The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Exceptions to the right for a public trial include national security concerns, protection of the interest of a minor or an individual requiring special protection, and safeguarding the identity of an accuser or defendant in a sex-offense case.
Defendants enjoy the rights to a presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, to be present at their trial, to a fair and public trial without undue delay, and to adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. They may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and may consult with an attorney or, if indigent, have one provided at public expense. Defendants have the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them, to present witnesses and evidence on their behalf, to access evidence held against them, and to appeal to the Supreme Court. The prosecution is under a general obligation following an indictment to provide all evidence to the defense. The government may on security grounds withhold from defense lawyers evidence it gathered but will not use in its case against the accused. The Supreme Court in civilian courts or the Court of Appeals in military courts can scrutinize the decision to withhold such evidence. The rules of evidence in cases of espionage tried in criminal court do not differ from the normal rules of evidence–no use of secret evidence is permissible.
The Ministry of Justice determined the law allows the courts to consider secret evidence in reviewing the cases of Palestinians convicted in civilian courts and granted conditional release from prison as part of a prisoner exchange and later rearrested for violating the terms of their release, because authorities considered this parole board review procedural.
On August 2, in response to the wave of attacks that began in September 2015, many perpetrated by minors, the Knesset passed a “Youth Bill” legalizing imprisonment of children as young as 12 years old if convicted of serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter.
Security or military trials are open to the public, but since authorities conduct them in a military camp, members of the public require an entry permit from the military. Authorities conducted certain trials in a closed setting, not open to the public, for reasons of security or for the protection of the identity of a minor.
Military courts provide some of the procedural rights granted in civilian criminal courts, although their rates of conviction of Palestinians charged with various crimes were much higher. The evidentiary rules governing trials of Palestinians, and others subject to military law in the occupied territories, are the same as evidentiary rules in criminal cases. According to the Ministry of Justice, the law does not permit convictions based solely on confessions. The government stated that the evidentiary rules applied in military trials were the same as those applied in civilian courts and did not allow presentation of secret evidence not provided to the defendant or their counsel. Counsel may assist the accused in such trials, and a judge may assign counsel to defendants. Indigent detainees do not automatically receive free legal counsel for military trials, but almost all detainees had counsel, even in minor cases. Court indictments were read in Hebrew and, unless the defendant waived this right, in Arabic. Authorities translated all military court indictments into Arabic. At least one interpreter was present for simultaneous interpretation in every military court hearing, unless the defendant waived that right. Defendants may appeal through the Military Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of civilian political prisoners or detainees. ACRI, however, petitioned the Supreme Court in 2013 regarding a practice by the ISA to call in political activists suspected of “subversive” activity for questioning under caution, meaning they might be charged with a crime. In response the government confirmed that there is a classified secret procedure that regulates Israel National Police assisting the ISA in the summoning process. As of November 4, the case was still pending with the Supreme Court.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
An independent and impartial judiciary adjudicates lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. Administrative remedies exist, and court orders usually were enforced. By law Palestinians may file suit to obtain compensation through civil suits in some cases, even when a criminal suit is unsuccessful and the actions against them considered legal.
In the 35 unrecognized villages in the Negev claimed by various Bedouin tribes, the government viewed all buildings as illegal and subject to demolition. In cases of demolitions with no agreement from the residents to relocate, the government levied fines against residents to cover expenses incurred in the course of demolitions. Many Bedouin whose residences or structures authorities subjected to demolition orders elected to self-demolish to avoid fines.
According to the NGO Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF), in recent years the government approved plans for the establishment of 15 new towns and settlements in the Negev region, the vast majority intended for the Jewish population. Authorities approved plans for settlements called Hiran (see below), Daya, and Neve Gurion to replace existing Bedouin villages. Authorities planned Daya to replace the unrecognized village al-Qatamat, and Neve Gurion was to replace some houses in the recognized village of Bir Haddaj. On October 9, the government demolished seven houses in Bir Haddaj, which the NCF claimed belonged to an extended family relocated there by the government 13 years earlier. In response on October 16, approximately 1,500 participants demonstrated near the regional council of Ramat Negev. The NCF noted the Negev was sparsely populated, with only 8 percent of the population living on 60 percent of Israel’s land, so there was ample room to establish new communities without razing existing ones.
In January the Supreme Court ruled again that eviction orders issued against residents of the Bedouin unrecognized village Umm al-Hiran, where they had been moved by the Israeli military regime in 1956, were valid. The NCF reported that construction work on Hiran progressed and expanded during the year, reaching to within a few yards of Bedouin houses in Umm al-Hiran, and residents suffered from the dust raised by construction. As of November a group of 30 Jewish families who planned to move to Hiran remained in mobile homes in the forest outside Umm al-Hiran while waiting to obtain the land. The government offered plots of land and cash compensation to villagers who accept resettlement to the nearby Bedouin town of Hura, three miles away, but village leaders had rejected this option because, according to the Hura local council, there was insufficient space even for natural growth in the town and because of fears it would force the villagers to abandon a more traditional rural lifestyle for an urban one, with attendant problems of drugs, crime, and disintegration of the traditional family/clan structure. Village leaders expressed openness to almost any option that would allow them to remain in place, including living side-by-side with Jewish neighbors in an expanded community. Authorities scheduled demolition of structures that would have displaced approximately 30 to 40 persons in one extended family for November 22, but the Be’er Sheva Magistrate Court postponed the demolition for a last-minute appeal, which the court denied the following day. As of November 30, the targeted villagers agreed to move to Hura and began self-demolishing in order to avoid steep fines and to reuse building materials.
Other Bedouin communities, such as Attir and al-Araqib, faced eviction due to the government’s forestation plans, while a planned extension of the Cross Israel Highway will affect approximately 400 structures. In May 2015 the Supreme Court rejected Bedouins’ claims of ownership of al-Araqib, a small community in the northern Negev, which the government had demolished more than 100 times since 2010. Residents of al-Araqib typically rebuild their shelters within one day of demolition. In July the Jewish National Fund worked in al-Araqib for 10 days, preparing land in four lots in preparation to plant trees in the winter.
The government noted its policy in Bedouin areas was to demolish “new vacant illegal structures” built without permits after 2010 and found in areas it determined to be state land, not belonging to any local authority. The NCF recorded 982 demolitions in 2015, down from 1,073 in 2014. Demolitions by Israeli authorities increased slightly to 365 in 2015 from 355 in 2014, while Bedouins demolished the remainder to avoid fines. In May a report from the State Comptroller stated: “The ongoing circle of construction for housing and demolition of these structures deepens the alienation of the Bedouin residents of the Negev towards the state and does not contribute to the regulation of their settlement.”
The government maintained a program to encourage Bedouins to relocate from unrecognized villages to established towns by providing low-cost land and compensation for demolition of illegal structures for those willing to move to designated permanent locations. Bedouins often refused to participate in this program because they asserted that they owned the land or that the government had given them prior permission to settle in their current locations. The NCF alleged the seven government-established towns were unable to accommodate their own natural growth, much less the arrival of new residents. Court-ordered demolitions and the rejection of their designated relocation sites for reasons of overcrowding caught some residents between these policies. Additionally, many Bedouins complained that moving to government-planned towns would require them to surrender claims to land they had occupied for several generations and would separate them from their livelihood. Conversely, the government claimed it was difficult and inefficient to provide services to clusters of buildings throughout the Negev that ignored planning procedures. Some Bedouins continued to pursue legal recognition of their 3,200 claims to parcels of land based on practices of land ownership and sales predating the establishment of the state in 1948, although in all cases the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government.
NGOs and Bedouin leaders noted that the implementation of the government plan for developing the Negev, with the resultant home demolitions and planned relocations of some Bedouin communities, continued apace in the absence of specific legislation to address Bedouin land claims. The NCF raised concerns that the policies of Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel had exacerbated the gaps between recognized and unrecognized Bedouin villages.
The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected those prohibitions. Separate religious court systems adjudicate matters such as marriage and divorce for the Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druze communities. Each year an estimated 20,000 civil marriages, marriages of some non-Orthodox Jews, marriages in non-Orthodox ceremonies, marriages of a Jew to a non-Jew, or marriages of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim must take place outside the country to be considered legal, because religious courts refuse to accept these marriages, and the country lacks a civil marriage law. Many Jewish citizens objected to exclusive Orthodox control over aspects of their personal lives. For example, the Orthodox Rabbinate did not consider to be Jewish approximately 337,000 citizens who considered themselves Jewish and who immigrated either as Jews or as family members of Jews; therefore, they may not be married or buried in Jewish cemeteries in the country. The Orthodox Rabbinate had the authority to handle divorces of any Jewish couple regardless of how they were married, as well as the divorce of any couple wherein one spouse considers him or herself to be Jewish. The government stated that 24 cemeteries in the country served immigrants not considered Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinate. The estimated 15,000 Messianic Jews, who believe Jesus is the Messiah and consider themselves Jews, also experienced these infringements on their personal lives, since the Orthodox Rabbinate regards them as Jewish apostates. Authorities did not fully implement a law requiring the government to establish civil cemeteries.
The Law of Citizenship and Entry, which is valid through April and renewed annually, prohibits Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, including those who are spouses of Israeli residents or citizens, from obtaining resident status in Jerusalem or Israel unless the Ministry of Interior makes a special determination, usually on humanitarian grounds. The law allows the entry of spouses of Israelis on a “staying permit” if the male spouse is age 35 or older and the female spouse is age 25 or older. Authorities required East Jerusalem residents who relocated to forfeit their Jerusalem identification cards. The government may revoke the Jerusalem identification cards of those who have been away from Jerusalem for seven years, and the government may seek to revoke a Palestinian’s Jerusalem identification card if the person obtains citizenship or residency in another country. The only way to qualify for Jerusalem residency and an identification card is to derive it from one’s parents or through a spouse. There is no immigration process, and one usually may not regain Jerusalem residency if authorities revoke it. (The annex addresses revocation of identity cards for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem in more detail.)