Israel weighs extending administrative detention of sick Palestinian teen

Amal Nakhleh’s father says 17-year-old with neuromuscular disorder has been held since January 2021 without being accused of any crime

Illustrative: A police officer keeps watch from an observation tower at the Gilboa Prison in northern Israel on September 6, 2021. (Jalaa Marey / AFP)
Illustrative: A police officer keeps watch from an observation tower at the Gilboa Prison in northern Israel on September 6, 2021 (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Israel is considering whether to extend the detention of a 17-year-old Palestinian with a rare neuromuscular disorder who has been held without charge for nearly a year in what authorities refer to as administrative detention, his father said Monday.

The use of administrative detention has galvanized demonstrations across the West Bank in recent months as several adult prisoners have gone on hunger strike to protest being held for months or years without charge. Some have secured their release after months of fasting that left them hospitalized and at risk of permanent neurological damage.

Israel says administrative detention, which is rarely used for minors, is needed to prevent imminent attacks or to detain dangerous terrorists without disclosing sensitive intelligence. Rights groups say it denies due process to Palestinians already living under military rule.

Amal Nakhleh, who was detained in January 2021, is one of just a handful of minors being held in administrative detention. He had a tumor removed from his lung in 2020 and suffers from myasthenia gravis, a nerve disorder that causes severe muscle fatigue.

His father, Muamar, says Israel has renewed Amal’s detention three times over the past year without saying why he is being held or accusing him of any crime. “There’s no legal justification to hold him, there’s been no charge,” he said. “They just say they have secret files.”

He says his son requires regular hospital visits for testing and needs a calm environment. At a court appearance on Monday, he was told that authorities need a few more days to decide whether to renew his son’s detention.

“I saw him today,” he said. “He couldn’t move his lips, he couldn’t move his eyes, he couldn’t smile. These are symptoms of the disease… We are very worried about his health situation.”

The Israeli military and Shin Bet internal security service did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Jessica Montell, the director of HaMoked, an Israeli rights group that advocates for Palestinian detainees, says Israel was holding six minors in administrative detention as of September, when her group received a response to a freedom of information request. Around 500 Palestinian adults are currently being held in administrative detention.

“Administrative detention should be reserved for extremely rare cases,” Montell said. “It should not be used in this wholesale way that Israel makes use of it, not for adults and definitely not for a sick child.”

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