Conflicts & War

Critically ill Palestinian child held under arbitrary detention by Israel

By Joan Mas Autonell

Ramallah, West Bank, Jan 14 (EFE).- Amal Nakhleh, a Palestinian minor who suffers from a serious autoimmune disease, has been under Israeli administrative detention for nearly a year with his family not informed of the charges nor the child’s expected release date.

Amal, 17, is not alone: there are some 500 Palestinians who are imprisoned under a controversial system headed by Israeli Security Forces (ISF) that is shrouded in secrecy.

The boy’s family and human rights groups have been demanding his immediate release.

The administrative detention imposed on Amal without charges and based on classified evidence is a form of arbitrary detention not permissible under public international law,” the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) said in a statement.

Over 60 Palestinian inmates went on a hunger strike in 2021 to protest Israeli arbitrary arrests under which six minors, including Nakhleh, are being held.

Hisham Abu Hawash, who in January ended a 141-day hunger strike after Israel said it would release him in February, has also grabbed international headlines and rallied support among Palestinians.

Shocking images of an increasingly emaciated Abu Hawash lying in bed illustrate the lengths some Palestinians are willing to go to to achieve freedom.

The Israeli government has used administrative detentions recurrently since its occupation of the Palestinian territory began in 1967. The method is similar to the incarceration practices which were implemented by the British mandate administration in Palestine in the 1930s.

In the West Bank, the military justice system can arrest any Palestinian based on secret information, using arrest warrants of between three and six months that can be extended indefinitely, Sahar Francis, director of Addameer, an NGO that provides legal support Palestinian prisoners and is in charge of the legal representation of Nakhleh, tells Efe.

“There is no limit to the extension of administrative detention,” Francis says.

“Just undemocratic countries in the Arab world or other states use detention for such a long period without the detainee being able to know what he’s accused of, why he’s behind bars,” the lawyer adds.

One Palestinian prisoner spent eight years in a row under administrative detention during the 1980s and ‘90s.

For many other Palestinians, life under this arbitrary detention system means they are in and out of custody for much of their lives.

Naji Abas, a member of the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel NGO, told Efe that one of the gravest concerns is the impact of imprisonment on the victims’ mental health.

Detention without a release date or the threat of re-arrest “conditions their entire lives, harms their education, family life” and their job prospects.

“They cannot plan anything,” Abas denounced.

Amal has been under administrative detention since January 2021.

In late 2020, he had already spent around 40 days in prison, accused of throwing stones at the Army, and although his defense obtained his release with bail until his trial, the ISF ordered his arrest without charges.

Amal suffers from myasthenia gravis, a rare disease that causes breathing and swallowing difficulties and muscle fatigue. In 2020 he had a tumor removed from his lungs, and he needs ongoing medication and medical care.

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