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16.9.2019

Following HaMoked’s complaint, the military admitted it wrongly announced that a Palestinian detainee had been released to his home; “this is a severe occurrence and the instructions will be clarified”

The right to be notified regarding arrest and place of detention is a basic right of both detainees and their families, and is a precondition for the protection of other rights, such as the right to legal counsel and the right to adequate conditions of detention. But while the Israeli authorities are obligated to notify families regarding their loved one's place of detention, the military and the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) do not meet this obligation when it comes to residents of the oPt, and do not even enable Palestinian families to contact them directly and request information. Further, they forbid detainees classified as "security detainees" from communicating with their families. In the vast majority of cases, the only way for families to find out where their loved ones are detained is through HaMoked, which contacts the Military Incarceration Control Center (MICC) – tasked with compiling all detention data and detainee whereabouts from the incarcerating authorities and providing accurate and up-to-date information to HaMoked’s tracing requests.

On July 11, 2019, HaMoked sent the military a letter of complaint about incorrect information the MICC provided regarding a Palestinian man from the West Bank who was arrested on July 1, 2019. On the day of his arrest, HaMoked sent a tracing request to the MICC on behalf of his family. On the following day the MICC responded that the man was being held at the Shomron (Huwarah) temporary detention facility. The conditions at such temporary facilities are poor and therefore detainees are to be held there only for a short period (pursuant to the military’s undertaking from 2008, given in the framework of a petition by HaMoked). HaMoked therefore continued to follow up on the case, asking the MICC for up-to-date information about the man. On July 4, 2019, HaMoked was informed that the man had been released on the previous day.

However, when HaMoked relayed the information to the family, the family said that the man had not returned home and that his attorney had said that he had been remanded in custody for a week. HaMoked contacted the MICC again and was notified once more that the man had been released. But the man did not return home on the following days and his family heard no news about him and was increasingly concerned about his fate. And so on July 8, 2019, HaMoked contacted the MICC yet again, and asked to recheck with the Shomron facility. Astoundingly, following this, the MICC informed HaMoked that it turned out the man was in fact still held at Shomron, and that the information about his release, given five days earlier, was incorrect.

In its complaint, HaMoked stressed that the military, which holds the detainees and is responsible for them, must provide accurate and reliable information as to their whereabouts. HaMoked also demanded that the error that occurred be rigorously investigated. In response, HaMoked received an investigation report dated September 15, 2019, which stated that the soldier from the Shomron facility misinformed the MICC because of an “honest mistake”. Nonetheless, the report concluded that “providing the MICC wrong information about the whereabouts of a security detainee is a severe and highly sensitive occurrence that could lead to a political incident”. The report also stated that “the entire staff at the facility” must be reinstructed about the duty to provide “serious and reliable” information, and that “this investigation is to be circulated to all the soldiers at the [temporary detention] facilities”.

It should be noted that back in March 2018, the state announced – following a habeas corpus petition HaMoked submitted to trace a Palestinian man whose whereabouts were unknown for more than three days after his arrest by the military – that the tracing instructions had been clarified, and that the military was in the process of formulating a “comprehensive internal procedure on the issue”.
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