DEFINITIONS: Administrative detention

What is administrative detention?

From the Israeli human rights organization, B'tselem (emphasis added)

In administrative detention, a person is held without trial, without having committed an offense, on the grounds that he or she plans to break the law in the future. As this measure is supposed to be preventive, it has no time limit. The person is detained without legal proceedings, by order of the regional military commander, based on classified evidence that is not revealed to them. This leaves the detainees helpless – facing unknown allegations with no way to disprove them, not knowing when they will be released, and without being charged, tried or convicted.

The Order regarding Security Provisions places no limit on the overall time that a person can be held in administrative detention, so the original 6-month detention can be extended over and over, 6 additional months at a time. In practice, this allows Israel to incarcerate Palestinians who have not been convicted of anything for years on end.

Since March 2002, not a single month has gone by without Israel holding at least 100 Palestinians in administrative detention.

In some cases, the authorities use administrative detention as a quick and easy alternative to criminal trial, rather than to prevent future danger. This occurs primarily when they do not have sufficient evidence for indictment, or when they do not want to reveal the evidence they allegedly possess. This use of administrative detention is absolutely prohibited. Israel also exploits this measure to detain Palestinians for their political opinions and for engaging in non-violent political activity.

The power to incarcerate people who have not been convicted or even charged with anything for lengthy periods of time, based on secret “evidence” that they cannot challenge, is an extreme power. Israel uses it continuously and extensively, routinely holding hundreds of Palestinians at any given moment.

For more detail and statistics on administrative detention, visit

Kathryn ShihadahComment