Israel police seeks use of administrative detention to fight Arab crime

Holding people in prison without a trial is a tool that has only been used on those considered potential terrorists, whether Arab or Jewish; critics slam idea.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Israeli police are demanding to be allowed to use the extreme tool of administrative detention in their fight against a growing crime wave in the Arab sector, Kan News reported Sunday in an exclusive story.

The idea is to implement such detention only in “exceptional” cases where there was a threat to life, with each case requiring the approval of the attorney general. Representatives of the police, the Ministry of Justice, and the Attorney General have discussed the plan, which the report says is still in its early stages.

Until now, holding people in prison without a trial is a tool that has only been used on those considered potential terrorists, whether Arab or Jewish. It is a controversial tool, as it denies suspects their basic rights to go to court to be proven guilty, and the evidence against them is presented to a judge without defense lawyers being able to argue against its validity. People can be held for months or even years at a time in this fashion, as long as a judge periodically reviews the case and approves the extension of the decree.

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Senior police officials quoted in Maariv Sunday defended the proposal, saying that using administrative arrests could have prevented murders in the Arab society.

“The Shabak can carry out administrative detentions for Facebook posts,” they said, “while even when there’s intelligence information but it’s not based on solid evidence at the time, the police can’t make a preventative arrest of suspects who intend on committing a serious crime, including murder. This is inconceivable.”

The threat of administrative detention, they argued, would also be effective in deterring criminals from committing such serious illegal acts.

Some 100 people have already been killed this year in Arab-on-Arab violence, and the issue has exploded on the national scene. The police consider the situation to be an emergency for the state, and the Arab sector itself seems to agree.

One of the main demands of the Islamist Ra’am party in joining the government coalition was that several billion shekels would be poured into all kinds of programs and law enforcement to gradually put an end to the phenomenon.

However, both civil organizations and politicians slammed the proposal of implementing the use of administrative arrests against a civilian population.

“The very intention to use tools that fatally violate human rights indicates that the authorities truly intend to exploit the wave of crime for which they are responsible in order to create a separate law enforcement system for Arab citizens,” charged Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

“In its latest steps, the state is proving that it is interested in ruling the Arab public as in the days of the military government: first by using the aid of the GSS and then by expanding the use of the illegal tool of administrative detentions. The result of these moves is a racist denial of basic rights on the basis of national status.”

The Committee of Heads of Arab Authorities in Israel called the proposal “dangerous and irresponsible,” saying, “Once again the police offer absurd and anti-democratic solutions.”

Joint List MK Sami Abu Shehadeh wrote sarcastically, “Why only administrative arrests? The government knows how to be much worse than that. It also has vast knowledge and experience in assassinations, kidnappings, neutralizations and field trials. After all, these are Arabs in the Jewish state. The security mentality is part of the problem and not part of the solution. Yes to administrative arrests – but only to those who brought up this delusional idea.”

An official in the Public Security Ministry told Maariv that the idea was a nonstarter because the law does not allow for such emergency measures to be used in criminal, versus security, cases. “There is no intention in the ministry to promote such moves and it did not materialize,” the source told the daily.

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