Amnesty’s “Administrative Detention” Report: Issues of Credibility and Bias
June 07, 2012
On June 6, Amnesty released a publication headlined "Starved of Justice: Palestinians detained without trial by Israel." The publication is part of the campaign to focus attention and exert political pressure on Israel, including the recent hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners, including those tried, convicted and serving sentences for involvement in mass terror attacks. The recommendations repeat many of the claims used in previous Amnesty publications which portray the Israeli legal system as inadequate, in order to justify international intervention.
- Amnesty’s report is based largely on unverifiable Palestinian “testimony”, with only minimal effort to check these allegations or obtain Israeli government responses (only four cases). This “methodology” violates professional and ethical standards for human rights fact finding.
- The report omits the author's names, violating professional guidelines for fact finding such as the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute’s Guidelines on International Human Rights. Deborah Hyams and Saleh Hijazi, were listed in a prior media advisory as media contacts for the report and are described as Israel and OPT researchers, making it likely that they were the authors of the report. Both have backgrounds that reflect flagrant anti-Israel bias. Amnesty's employment of biased staff also violates its claimed core value of "impartiality."
- In 2001, Hyams volunteered as a “human shield” in Beit Jala (near Bethlehem), to deter Israeli military responses to recurrent gunfire and mortars targeting Jewish non-combatant civilians in Jerusalem. In 2008, Hyams was signatory to a letter claiming Israel is “a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land.” In a 2002 Washington Jewish Week article, Hyams “said that while she does not condone suicide bombings, she personally believes they ‘are in response to the occupation.’” Hyams has worked for a number of radical advocacy NGOs, including the Alternative Information Center (AIC), Jews for Justice in Palestine and Israel (JPPI), Rachel Corrie Foundation, and Ma’an Network.
- Hijazi, a Palestinian born in Jerusalem and raised in Ramallah, has also demonstrated a clear lack of objectivity in this regard. In 2005, he worked as a Public Relations officer for the Palestinian Authority’s Office of the Ministry of Planning in Ramallah and in 2007 he was listed as contact for the NGO “Another Voice” – under the group's signature “Resist! Boycott! We Are Intifada!”
- On March 9, 2011, Hijazi, while as a researcher for Human Rights Watch, spoke at a UN conference where he described how his father was supposedly arrested by the Israeli authorities “when the Israeli military could not find an activist neighbor.” Impartiality is questionable given that Hijazi simultaneously claims to be a victim of the very same country on which he is reporting.
- Administrative detention is a common procedure used by democratic and rights-respecting states around the world in security-related cases, including the US and the UK. Israel's use of administrative detention compares favorably to international standards, and complies with International Law.
- All Palestinian administrative detainees are brought before a judge within a short period of time, and all the evidence is reviewed by the court. The court's decision can be appealed to the Military Court of Appeals. The decisions of the court of appeals can be, and often are, challenged at the Israeli High Court of Justice.
- Many allegations in this publication lack credibility. For example, in the case of Hana Shalabi, an alleged member of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization who was released to the Gaza strip as part of the agreement ending her hunger strike. Amnesty admits that “Hana Shalabi’s initial statements after her release suggested that she had entered into the agreement voluntarily.” However, Amnesty proceeds to repeat Shalabi’s claims regarding “contradictory statements made by the lawyer who negotiated the deal,” and then concludes that Israel has used “forcible transfer.” At most, this claim relates to a dispute between Shalabi and her lawyer.
- Amnesty alleges gross violations of international law, but its own analysis contradicts such claims. Amnesty’s use of the term “forcible transfer” to refer to prisoners who agreed to this as part of their release is an inflammatory rhetorical statement with no substantive basis.
- In the report, Amnesty ignores the context of on-going terrorism that targets Israeli civilians. The report obscures the evidence showing that detainees are members of or linked to terrorist organizations. Moreover, Amnesty fails to present the many court decisions detailing this evidence. Instead, Amnesty falsely presents Palestinian detainees either as “prisoners of conscience” or non-violent activists.
- Amnesty continues to rely on the reports of political advocacy organizations with clear ideological agendas, such as Addameer, Al-Haq, B’Tselem, HaMoked, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.
- In this report, Amnesty continues to repeat the discredited accusations of the Goldstone report (repudiated by Judge Goldstone himself) on the Gaza war, including the false claim that Israel had “failed to conduct credible, independent investigations or prosecute perpetrators.” (pg. 8) Israel has conducted hundreds of investigations into the events relating to the 2008-09 war. Judge Mary McGowan Davis, empanelled by the UN Human Rights Council to lead the follow-up committee to the Goldstone Report, found that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza.” Judge Goldstone, himself, has noted “our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report. McGowan Davis has found that Israel has done this to a significant degree.”
Amnesty’s report is based largely on unverifiable Palestinian “testimony”, with only minimal effort to check these allegations or obtain Israeli government responses (only four cases). This “methodology” violates professional and ethical standards for human rights fact finding.