Adalah Demands Cancellation of Emergency Regulations Extending the Period Detainees May Be Held Without Access to Lawyers

The new emergency regulations apply to a wide range of offenses and permit the denial of access to legal counsel for an extended period of up to 90 days.

Today, 29 October 2023, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, sent an urgent letter to Israel's Attorney General, Prime Minister and Justice Minister demanding the immediate cancellation of emergency regulations that extend the period which detainees suspected of “security offenses” can be denied access to their legal counsel.


    CLICK HERE to read Adalah’s letter (Hebrew)


    CLICK HERE to read the Emergency Regulations 


The regulations, published on 24 October 2023, apply to any individual suspected of offenses categorized as 'security offenses' as specified in the regulations, including citizens and residents of Israel and East Jerusalem. These regulations authorize heads of investigation departments in the Shin Bet (the Israel Security Agency, or Shabak) or a military officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel or higher to order the detention of a suspect for up to 30 days without access to a lawyer, without requiring the approval of a court. The regulations further specify that this period can be extended for up to 90 days, subject to the approval of a judge serving as the president or vice president of a district court. The emergency regulations mark a significant change: under pre-existing Israeli law, a suspect could be detained for a maximum of 10 days without access to a lawyer, and for a total of  up to 21 days with judicial approval.


The regulations apply to individuals suspected of a wide range of offenses, including crimes of treason and espionage, as well as criminal offenses carrying sentences of five years or more, where the maximum penalty has been doubled due to religious or nationalistic motives attributed to the alleged perpetrator, in accordance with the 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law. In the vast majority of cases, Palestinians are the ones accused of these offenses. The emergency regulations also apply to Palestinians who are detained for not holding a permit to stay in Israel. This includes thousands Palestinian workers from Gaza whose permits were collectively revoked on 7 October and are being held incommunicado in unknown locations by the Israeli authorities. Adalah, together with several human rights organizations, has petitioned the Supreme Court to demand their release.


    CLICK HERE to read more about the petition 


In the letter, Adalah's General Director, Attorney Dr. Hassan Jabareen, argued that the emergency regulations violate the right of detainees to meet with lawyers, which is a fundamental right under international and Israeli law, as previously affirmed by the Israeli Supreme Court. Adalah further argued that, even before the enactment of these new regulations, the law allowed for detainees to be held for prolonged periods without access to legal counsel, as was previously highlighted with concern by the UN Committee against Torture and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. The latter noted that under Israeli criminal law, access to a lawyer and family is restricted to the extent that “a detainee may be held without contact with the outside world for periods that could amount to weeks at a time”.


Adalah stressed that the right to access legal counsel is a fundamental right recognized under international law, providing essential protections for the rights of suspects and detainees in criminal proceedings, serving as a prerequisite for a fair trial. For instance, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights defines communication with legal counsel as one of the minimum guarantees to which individuals are entitled.


Adalah commented:


“The current national state of emergency cannot justify the grave violations of detainees’ rights, particularly when a large number of Palestinians are detained solely based on their alleged nationalistic motivations. The recent surge in mass arrests of Palestinian citizens clearly indicates that these regulations are not aimed at the preservation of national security during wartime, but rather introduce yet another tool of oppression against Palestinians in incarceration.”