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UN express grave concerns over detention of Heba Al-Labadi

GENEVA (31 October 2019) – UN human rights experts* called on Israel to immediately release Heba Al-Labadi, a Palestinian woman with Jordanian nationality, who was placed in solitary confinement after an Israeli military court sentenced her to administrative detention without trial.

According to information received by the experts, Israeli security forces arrested Ms. Al-Labadi at the Allenby Bridge border crossing on 20 August 2019 while she was travelling with her family to attend a wedding in Jenin. Following her arrest, she was subjected to 30 days of interrogation in the Petah Tikva interrogation centre. During her interrogation, which sometimes extended to 20 hours a day, she was tied to a chair and placed in a painful position.

“We are gravely concerned that Ms. Al-Labadi was subjected to treatment during her interrogation that could amount to torture and ill-treatment,” the experts said. “We are especially troubled by the fact that Ms. Al Labadi was denied access to a lawyer for a period of three weeks and has not yet been allowed to see her family.”

On 24 September, an Israeli military court sentenced Ms. Al-Labadi to five months of administrative detention, and transferred her to Kishon detention facility (Al-Jalamah), where she was held in solitary confinement. The charges or evidence against Ms. Al-Labadi were not communicated to her nor were they made public, the experts said. Following her sentencing, Ms. Al-Labadi launched a hunger strike, which is currently in its sixth week. As a result, she has been suffering from several medical conditions. On 27 October she was admitted to hospital in Haifa.

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“Ms. Al-Labadi’s deteriorating health as a result of her protest is of serious concern,” the experts said. “The use of solitary confinement against Ms. Al-Labadi for 30 consecutive days during her administrative detention is not a legitimate instrument of a State as it may cause severe mental and physical pain and suffering.” UN experts have previously stated that prolonged periods of solitary confinement may amount to torture.

Administrative detention is widely used by Israel as an alternative to criminal proceedings, especially in cases where there is insufficient evidence to charge the person. While administrative detention as such is not prohibited under international law, it is permitted only in exceptional circumstances and subject to stringent safeguards. Israel practices a form of administrative detention that relies on the use of secret evidence, fails to provide reasons for the arrest, allows for indefinite detention through consecutive administrative detention orders without charges or trials and is often based on military jurisdiction, among others.

“We call on Israel to abolish this form of administrative detention, where individuals are deprived of core due process guarantees,” the experts said. “Israel’s wide practice of administrative detention is incompatible with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”

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