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Young Palestinian man detained for 96 hours before the authorities informed his family of his whereabouts: following HaMoked habeas corpus petition on his behalf, the authorities are to submit to the court a document about lessons learned from the incident

The right to receive notification of a person’s detention and whereabouts is a fundamental right of both the detainee and their family. Such notification is a crucial component in ensuring that all other rights of the detainee are upheld. Both military legislation in the OPT as well as Israeli law and Supreme Court rulings obligate the security forces to notify of a person's detention and whereabouts. However, despite these obligations, Israel does not inform Palestinians' families of their detention, nor does it allow families to make inquiries directly. Instead, as a result of HaMoked litigation and advocacy, the military established the Incarceration Control Center which compiles all detention data and detainee whereabouts from the incarcerating authorities – the military, the Israel Prison Service, the Israel Security Agency and the Israel Police – and provides this information to HaMoked which applies on behalf of individual families.

In the pre-dawn hours of Thursday, February 15, 2018, the Israeli security forces arrived at a home in Hebron and detained two brothers. That morning, not knowing where one of the brothers, age 23, was taken to, the family contacted HaMoked to help trace him. HaMoked immediately contacted the Control Center, and asked for current information about the young man’s whereabouts. Throughout that day and over the weekend, the Control Center’s only answer to HaMoked’s persistent appeals was that the tracing request was still being processed. On Sunday morning, February 18, 2018, HaMoked was informed that the man “has not been traced”!

Therefore, that same day HaMoked filed an urgent petition for a writ of habeas corpus to the High Court of Justice (HCJ). In the petition, HaMoked stressed that it was already three days since the arrest and some 70 hours since HaMoked first contacted the Control Center, but that there was still no response. HaMoked added that the family was worried and anxious given the lack of information about their loved one’s whereabouts.

On the following day, in its response to the petition, the State Attorney’s Office notified the court that the petitioner had been held at the Etzion jail since his arrest, and asked that the petition be deleted. The response also contained an attempt to make light of the failure to trace the detainee: it was claimed that “it is entirely unclear why the petition was filed” given that on the previous day, the detainee’s father was present at the military court hearing concerning the son’s detention. This, despite the fact that the father had arrived at the military court for a hearing concerning the detention of his other son. He did not know that the missing son would also be there, and even after seeing him there did not find out where this son was being held.

In the HCJ hearing later that day, HaMoked insisted on receiving an explanation why neither the detainee’s family nor HaMoked representing the detainee were informed of his whereabouts for such a long time. The State Attorney’s Office representative admitted that “a belated application was made by the Control Center to the police… it was a failure that [HaMoked’s] application was not answered within 24 hours”. In response to the justices’ questions, the State Attorney’s Office representative declared that the “procedures in this matter will be clarified”, and that in the next couple of days the relevant entities would hold a meeting on this issue. Therefore, the court ruled that the petition had run its course and ordered its deletion. It also ruled that “for the sake of proper procedure and the completeness of the picture, the Respondents’ counsel will submit for our perusal a summary of the said meeting within 14 days from today”. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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