Khalida Jarrar, a prominent Palestinian lawyer, human rights advocate, and an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), has been under Israeli administrative detention since July 12, 2017, shortly after Israeli forces raided her Ramallah home before dawn. As I explained in a previous piece for Muftah, administrative detention is a practice of arbitrary detention in which a person is incarcerated, by order of a regional military commander, without indictment or trial. These orders are issued on the basis of information withheld from the detainee and her legal counsel, and are indefinitely renewable for up to six months at a time.
According to Addameer, a prisoner’s rights organization, there are roughly 450 Palestinians currently held in Israeli military prisons under administrative detention, including two children and four members of the PLC. This is in addition to approximately 5900 political prisoners.
Jarrar was initially detained in July 2017 for her membership and activities with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP is a leftist nationalist political party and military organization active in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). It is a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and is considered a terrorist organization by Israeli authorities.
In December 2017, as Jarrar’s detention order approached its expiration date, Israeli military officials declared that she still posed a “tangible risk” to public security, on the basis of classified material. On this basis, her detention was extended for another six months. At the end of this period, another military order was issued, on June 16, 2018, imprisoning Jarrar for an additional four months. On July 2, Israeli Judge Raphael Yemeni at the Ofer military court approved the four-month renewal, which is now scheduled to expire on October 29, 2018. Again relying on information withheld from Jarrar, the judge said she remains a “threat to the security of the state.”
Jarrar has spent much of her life in and out of Israeli military prisons. She was previously detained in April 2015 for violating an Israeli travel ban, imposed since 1998, that restricted her movement in the West Bank. In December 2017, she was sentenced to fifteen months in prison for security-related offenses, as part of a plea bargain with the military prosecutor. She was released in June 2016, only to be detained yet again in July 2017.
Jarrar, along with rights groups around the world, considers her ongoing detention to be politically motivated. As a PFLP activist, Jarrar has been a vocal proponent for Palestinian women’s and prisoner’s rights. Over the years, her commitment to social and political change has made her a familiar face in demonstrations across the West Bank. She is vice-chairperson of the board of directors for Addameer, and served as its director for twelve years prior to her election to the PLC in 2006. She also served as head of the Prisoner’s Commission of the PLC.
Perhaps most importantly, Jarrar is an outspoken critic of security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, which has become an issue of central importance for popular grassroots mobilization in the territory. Jarrar was also a member of a government-appointed committee responsible for advancing the PA’s bid to join the International Criminal Court (ICC). The attempt by the PA to internationalize the “conflict,” which could potentially shift the balance of power in the region and hold Israel to account on the basis of international law, is considered a strategic threat by Israel. In fact, Jarrar’s April 2015 arrest came just two days after the PA formally obtained membership in the ICC.
Israel has weaponized administrative detention as part of a broader, ongoing attack on Palestinian civil society and resistance efforts. According to international laws binding upon Israel and its occupation of Palestine, specifically article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the temporary detention of civilians is permitted only under exceptional circumstances, “for imperative reasons of security.” According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director for the Middle East and North Africa Division at Human Rights Watch, “Israel’s regular use of administrative detention…inverts international law and turns the exception into the norm.”