Ismail al-Nattah

Hours after he had been told that he would be released from the Negev desert prison after eight months in administrative detention without charge or trial, as he waited near the entrance of the prison for his transport to release, Palestinian prisoner Ismail al-Nattah, 43, was told that his detention had again been extended by another four months.

Rather than being released on 21 March as his family members waited at al-Dhahriya crossing south of al-Khalil to receive him, he was once again returned to the prison cells. His family members denounced the act as another form of torture used by the occupation against administrative detainees and their families, causing them to live in a constant state of uncertainty and fear.

He has been imprisoned by the Israeli occupation since his home was invaded on 23 July 2017 and ransacked by occupation forces. He previously spent five years in Israeli prison.

This comes as administrative detainees continue their boycott of the Israeli military courts for the 39th day, in a protest step against their ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial. They are demanding an end to the policy of administrative detention and launched their mass boycott on 15 February. Occupation forces have threatened the prisoners to bring them before the military courts with force in order to break the boycott.

Palestinian prisoners, including youth activist Saleh Jaidi and Nawaf Sawarka, have been subject to a policy of attempting to break the boycott, as documented by Addameer:

The military court judge had shortened the orders. In response, the military prosecutor filed an appeal with the aim of lengthening the time of detainment.

 In solidarity, both the individuals in question and their lawyer did not attend the hearing in the military court at Ofer Prison. This resulted in the judge postponing the hearing until 14 March, knowing that both administrative detention orders were to expire on 18 March.

Again, the individuals in question and their lawyer refused to participate in the proceedings. In response, the judge stated that if Mahmoud Hassan, lawyer for Addameer, and his clients do not attend future hearings then Mahmoud will be referred to the Ethics committee of the Israeli Bar Association and fined. His clients will be brought to the court room, by force if necessary. Additionally, the individuals in question will be held until the conclusion of proceedings.

Such moves represent a concerted effort to crush the boycott. The judge is, without a formal extension of administrative detention order, telling Salah and Nawaf that they will be detained until they attend their court session. In essence, their arbitrary detention will continue, potentially indefinitely, until they give up the boycott.

There are currently around 450 Palestinians jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention; as administrative detention orders are indefinitely renewable, Palestinians can spend years at a time imprisoned under these orders. Since the beginning of the boycott, over 90 administrative detention orders or renewals have been issued; in 2017, 1060 administrative detention orders were issued. Administrative detention was first introduced to Palestine by the British colonial mandate, and it is used today to target community leaders and Palestinian organizers for indefinite imprisonment on the basis of a so-called “secret file.”