Mohammad Abu Sakha ‘has been denied even the slightest semblance of justice’ - Philip Luther
Amnesty International has described as “shameful” a decision by the Israeli military today to renew for six months the detention of the Palestinian circus performer Mohammad Abu Sakha who has already been held without charge since his arrest last December.
Amnesty said his case exemplifies the Israeli authorities’ arbitrary and repressive use of “administrative detention”, with people so detained held indefinitely without charge or trial.
On 25 December Mohammad Abu Sakha was given a six-month administrative detention order, which was reviewed and upheld by a military judge on 5 January. On 31 March, his appeal against the six-month administrative detention order was rejected.
The new detention renewal order will be reviewed the day after tomorrow (15 June) by a military judge who can either confirm the renewal, cancel the order or reduce the period of detention. In the overwhelming majority of administrative detention cases, such hearings have served as a routine confirmation of the order.
Mohammad Abu Sakha performs as a clown and teaches at the Palestinian Circus School in Birzeit, near Ramallah, where he specialises in working with children with learning difficulties. The circus school, which is funded by various charities and other bodies including the European Commission, has said there is absolutely no basis to claims that Mohammad Abu Sakha is a security threat, and that his life is dedicated to the circus.
In March, Amnesty and circus activists staged a “Justice for clowns” demonstration
near the Israeli Embassy in London calling for justice for Mohammad Abu Sakha.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther said:
“The arbitrary detention of Mohammad Abu Sakha is yet another shameful example of the Israeli authorities’ abusive use of administrative detention.
“He has already spent more than six months behind bars without being charged or allowed to stand trial - he has been denied even the slightest semblance of justice.
“The Israeli authorities must either charge Mohammad Abu Sakha with a genuine criminal offence or order his release.”
Nearly 700 Palestinians held in administrative detention
Administrative detention orders are issued by Israeli military commanders and are renewable an unlimited number of times. Some Palestinians have held without charge or trial for years. The Israeli authorities claim they only use the measure in exceptional cases relating to security. In practice however, it has been used to detain thousands of people, including those Amnesty has considered prisoners of conscience, and the Israeli authorities have sharply increased its use in recent months. As of 30 April, the last month for which Israel Prison Service statistics are available, 692 Palestinians were being held by Israel in administrative detention - of these, 13 were children.
Under international law the use of administrative detention is only permitted in exceptional circumstances and when subjected to stringent safeguards. Amnesty opposes its use, having found that wherever used administrative detention invariably fails to meet, in law and practice, the safeguards required by international law to prevent people being arbitrarily detained.