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28.3.2018

Following HaMoked’s habeas corpus petition: Israel clarified the instructions for tracing detainees and is formulating a comprehensive procedure on the issue

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.

On February 18, 2018, HaMoked filed an urgent petition for a writ of habeas corpus to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) on behalf of a 23-year-old Palestinian who was arrested by the Israeli security forces from his home in Hebron on February 15, 2018, more than three days earlier. This, after the military Control Center notified HaMoked – some 70 hours after the initial tracing request was submitted – that it could not locate the detainee.

In its response to the petition, the State Attorney’s Office stated that the detainee had been held at the Etzion jail since his arrest. HaMoked then insisted on receiving an explanation why neither the detainee’s family nor HaMoked had been informed of his whereabouts for such a long time. In the hearing, the State Attorney’s Office representative admitted that “a belated application was made by the Control Center to the police…” and declared – in response to the justices’ questions – 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. The court, therefore, deleted the petition, ruling 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”.

On March 26, 2018, the State Attorney’s Office submitted a somewhat delayed update notice on the matter. The notice stated that among the Control Center soldiers “there was a misconception that the weekend is not counted as part of the 24 hours given to them to trace detainees”, and also that “the tracing process was performed ‘in succession’, namely that the applications to the different security authorities were performed one after another and not in parallel”.

Thereupon, the notice stated, the procedures were clarified, and the following points were transmitted to the soldiers, both orally and in writing: The tracing process was to begin “immediately” upon receipt of the tracing request; the tracing queries sent by the Control Center to the security authorities were to be performed in parallel; and an answer was to be given as soon as possible “and no later than 24 hours, including during the weekend” (emphases in the original). It was also clarified that only the Control Center Commander may provide a response that the detainee has not been traced, this, “in order to ensure oversight of the process when a detainee has not been traced”. It was also established that the Control Center Commander must be notified immediately if after 12 hours from the time the request arrived the detainee has not been traced. Additionally, that if tracing efforts have failed within the first 24 hours, the Operations Division Head or the Operations Branch Head of the Military Police Core must be notified immediately.

Lastly, it was announced that “the Operations Branch was formulating a comprehensive internal procedure on the issue in collaboration with the legal advisor of the headquarters of the Military Police Chief Officer”.
mail@hamoked.org.il (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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