According to the Palestinian Ministry for Prisoner Affairszzz*z data of April 2010, 760,000 Palestinians have been arrested by Israel since 1967, including about 70,000 since the start of the second Intifada. The data shows that 315 of current prisoners were arrested before the Oslo Agreement and have been in Israeli jails since then. Almost half of the 315 prisoners have been under Israeli detention for more than 20 years.
State security has been a problematic sphere of control for Palestinian leadership. Israeli authorities are able to override the Palestinian Authority’s jurisdiction in arresting and detaining Palestinians for criminal and security reasons.
The Israel Prison Service (IPS) is the operational arm of the state law enforcement system in charge of "criminal prisoners and persons remanded in custody." According to the IPS official website, the system in 2008 consisted of 32 prisons holding 25,000 prisoners.
There are a large number of Palestinian prisoners termed as “security prisoners”, implying that they threaten the security of Israeli citizens and the state’s infrastructure. The IPS divides these prisoners according to the political factions to which they belong. Official numbers show that a majority of such prisoners belong to Fateh (44%), followed by Hamas (26%) and Islamic Jihad (14%).
While in confinement, some high-profile inmates have continued to influence Palestinian politics and dialogue with the Israeli leadership. An example of the political influence wielded by these activists is the Palestinian Prisoners’ document (also known as the National Reconciliation Document) published on May 11, 2006. Five Palestinian prisoners belonging to different political factions charted this document which spells out 18 conditions essential to the complete withdrawal of Israeli military from the occupied Palestinian territories and successful creation of an independent Palestinian state.
Sumoud, a Canadian solidarity group for political prisoners, reported in June 2004 that over 7,000 Palestinians were being held as political prisoners by the Israeli army and police.
As of 2008, official IPS numbers claim that 60 percent of prisoners held by Israeli authorities are criminal prisoners, while 40 percent are security prisoners.
Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial. It is authorized by military administrative order rather than judicial decree. In other words, the state security system makes the decision while bypassing the conventional judicial process. The stated purpose of such detention is to allow the state to prevent security threats posed by individuals against it and its citizens.
This measure has been adopted by several countries as a counter-terrorism measure, especially since the events of 9/11. Although permissible under international law, there are concrete conditions that need to be fulfilled in order to make such a detention legitimate and legal.
In April 2010, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics data indicated that more than 19,000 Palestinians were detained under administrative terms (detention without trial) since 2002 of whom 264 were still in detention. In addition, more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners are still awaiting trail in Israeli jails.
BREACH OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
B’Tselem reports that Israeli security forces have abused administrative detention powers in the occupied territories. Administrative detention is a measure to be taken only under extreme circumstances when the individual poses an immediate threat to the state. Israel, on the other hand, has used the method to expedite the process of detaining potentially "harmful" Palestinians in cases of insufficient evidence. Student and youth members of political factions have been arrested simply because of their political affiliations and views.
Members of Palestinian political parties can be detained by Israeli forces without due process, simply because of their membership in these parties. Such prisoners have been held by Israel in Israel for indefinite periods. This is contradictory to international legal conventions which clearly state that such detainees cannot be held indefinitely and may not be transferred outside of the occupied territories.
According to B’Tselem, at the end of Feb. 2009 Israel was holding 560 Palestinians in administrative detention.
Defense for Children International (DCI) argues that whereas imprisonment of children must be a last resort, Israeli forces have regularly arrested minors without discretion towards their protected status under international law. Most of these child prisoners are arrested under administrative detention due to alleged political affiliation and activities.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 270 child prisoners of whom 44 under the age of 16 years are being held by Israeli authorities in April 2010.
PRISONERS IN PALESTINIAN JAILS
Both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas-controlled authority in the Gaza Strip maintain detention centers. It is estimated that 300 of the prisoners held in the Beitunia detention center in the West Bank are accused of security-related crimes. Hamas puts the number of its detainees at more than 750, and says that many are being held solely for being part of the opposition.
A 2009 European delegation estimated that 88 percent of detainees held by the Palestinian Authority are held without being formally charged.
The number of political prisoners being held in Gaza Strip prisons is more difficult to ascertain, particularly as Hamas forces created hidden jails after Israelzzz*zs offensive in Gaza in early 2009. Hamas officials estimate that approximately 100 Fateh-affiliated prisoners are in detention; Fateh puts the number at 150 to 200.
Human rights organizations have documented cases of torture and killings by the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Hamas forces in Gaza.