State orders psychiatric evaluation for mentally ill Palestinian citizen of Israel only after he appeals against his administrative detention order to the Israeli Supreme Court

Adalah challenges Nazareth District Court’s approval of detention order signed by Minister of Defense; detainee has been in custody for over 7 weeks.

The Israeli Supreme Court will hear today, Tuesday 6 June 2021, an appeal submitted by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel against the approval of a four-month administrative detention order of a Palestinian man, a citizen of Israel. It is very rare for Palestinian citizens of Israel to be placed in administrative detention.


The detainee is a 27-year-old resident of Nazareth, previously diagnosed with mental illness, and who has been treated by psychiatric institutions in recent years.


Israeli police first arrested the man on 17 May 2021 and he is held since then without charge. On 31 May 2021, the Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, signed an order for his administrative detention for an additional four months. Nazareth District Court Judge Avraham Avraham subsequently approved the order on 21 June 2021, thus accepting the claim that the Palestinian man poses a terror threat, based on alleged statements he made while interrogated by the General Security Services (GSS) (the Shabak).


The man however had neither access to legal counsel nor access to medical supervision during the interrogations. Due to his mental health issues, it is unclear whether the man was cognitively aware of his surroundings, of the interrogation, and of his answers, and it is unclear what other forms of duress the GSS may have employed during his interrogation.


On 28 June 2021, Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher submitted an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding an immediate cancellation to the administrative detention order. In the appeal, Adalah argues that the court cannot confirm administrative detention of a mentally ill person without having a psychiatric evaluation of the person’s mental health and capacity to answer interrogators. Moreover, the Palestinian man’s continued detention without such an evaluation or medical treatment further demonstrates the impropriety of his detention.


The court ordered the state to respond to the appeal by 4 July. However, the state instead filed a motion requesting to postpone the hearing, and announced it has agreed to have the detainee examined by a psychiatrist on the day of the scheduled hearing and will have a full evaluation and report within a week. The court rejected the request and demanded the state’s immediate response to the appeal, that will be heard as scheduled today.


Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher commented:

"The prosecution's statement is an admission that the basic steps required to substantiate the allegations made regarding the detainee and his intentions have not been taken, in light of his mental illness. His imprisonment without a professional evaluation to examine his independent judgment is evidence of the arbitrariness and improper purpose of the detention, and the fact that the Nazareth District Court approved such a decision should be of major concern.  This case well demonstrates that administrative detention is a dangerous practice that must be abolished, and that there is a real danger that the judiciary will allow the security forces to imprison people without any supervision or accountability."


Case Citation: Supreme Court Appeal  4540/21, Anonymous v. The State of Israel



Image: William Warby