On 3 January 2006, Israeli authorities rejected the appeal of the renewed administrative detention of Al-Haq fieldworker and human rights defender Ziyad Hmeidan. Ziyad’s initial detention began on 23 May 2005, when he was detained by Israeli occupying forces at a checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. Beginning 16 June 2005, Ziyad was placed without charges in administrative detention for six months by Israeli military authorities. Initially scheduled to end on 23 November 2005, Ziyad’s administrative detention was renewed on 14 November 2005, when he received a letter initially extending his detention for another six months.
On 8 December 2005, Ziyad’s detention extension was reviewed by a military judge. Although the extension of his administrative detention period was confirmed in principle, it was reduced from six months to four months, i.e. until 21 March 2006.
According to the military court, the reduction was justified on the grounds that no new public evidence or information has been provided to justify his detention, other than the information that dates from his previous administrative detention back in 1996. In this regard, the military judge noted that the publicly available information currently used as evidence in his case is in and by itself not sufficient to continue Ziyad’s detention, or to provide the Israeli authorities with the ability to formally press charges against him. Although there was a clear recognition by the court that his continued detention violates his fundamental human rights, Israeli authorities argued that based on the secret evidence available to them, Ziyad remains a security threat to the area, thereby justifying his continued detention.
While his detention period was reduced by two months, Israeli authorities reiterated the fact that this is by no means intended to serve as a "genuine reduction" in his detention period. More alarming is the fact that the secret evidence described as coming from a "trusted" source was not disclosed to Ziyad’s lawyer Sahar Francis or her defendant, thereby violating the rights of the defense and leaving the door wide open for extending his detention once again in March when the current order expires.
On 3 January 2006, Ziyad’s administrative detention was appealed by his lawyer to a military appeal court at Ansar III (Ketziot) detention center. In addition to the obvious flaws in the legal process leading to his administrative detention, and the illegality of the detention itself, Ziyad’s lawyer questioned the source and reliability of the secret evidence, and the fact that Israeli authorities continue to refuse disclosing this information to her or to Ziyad. She also noted that the publicly available information used as evidence is based on statements made during the confessions extracted from another Palestinian detainee regarding an alleged meeting that Ziyad had with a “dangerous” individual, and refers to outdated information concerning events that took place in 1996. In addition, the fact that the court had acknowledged during the earlier review that there was but one single source for the secret evidence justifies the suspicion of the defense that the source for both the public and the secret evidence used in this case is one and the same.
Similarly, in his own defense, Ziyad restated that as Al-Haq’s fieldworker in the Bethlehem area, he is often required to collect first-hand evidence and documentation regarding ongoing violations of human rights by Palestinian and Israeli authorities. As part of his fieldwork activities and efforts to ensure the accuracy of the evidence and information gathered, it is imperative that he is in constant touch with victims, perpetrators, and eye-witnesses of human rights abuses alike, some of whom are allegedly dangerous to Israeli security. Therefore, Ziyad must not be punished for responding to the demands entailed by his work as a human rights defender.
Nevertheless, Israeli authorities continued to claim that according to the secret evidence which they refuse to disclose, Ziyad continues to pose a “real threat” to Israeli security, thereby warranting his continued administrative detention.
In line with the Israeli authorities’ consistent efforts to frustrate Al-Haq’s endeavors to assist Ziyad and guarantee the protection of his fundamental rights under international law, Al-Haq’s request to have two of its lawyers attend the proceedings of the appeal session was turned down. Similarly, Al-Haq was informed that representatives of international human rights organizations or foreign delegations potentially interested in acting as trial observers were also to be barred from attending the proceedings, on the grounds that it would be a closed hearing.
The process through which Ziyad was placed in administrative detention, the renewal of his detention, and examination of his appeal are all in violation of fundamental principles of international law. To date, Al-Haq’s request to be informed of the reasons for Ziyad’s arrest and detention, and the charges against him, have been unanswered by the Israeli authorities. Moreover, Ziyad’s continued detention at the Ansar III (Ketziot) detention centre in the Naqab (Negev) desert – reknowned for its poor prison condition and dire living standards – is also in violation of his basic human rights.