Adalah, ACRI petition Israeli Supreme Court against prevention of administrative release of 'security prisoners'

Supreme Court petition on behalf of two Palestinian minors against new law that excludes individuals classified as 'security prisoners' from early release due to prison overcrowding.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court on 24 February 2019 on behalf of two Palestinian minors against a new law that excludes individuals classified by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) as 'security prisoners' from earlier release due to overcrowding in prisons.


The human rights organizations filed the petition against the provisions of Section 3(b) of the Prisons Ordinance Amendment (No. 54 and Temporary Order), passed on 7 November 2018, which excludes individuals classified as "security prisoners" from its application. The overwhelming number of people affected by the law are Palestinians.


The Knesset passed the law to increase the scope of which is called “administrative release” in order to expand the living space of prisoners. Following a petition by ACRI, the Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that the population density in prisons does not meet proper standards and that the state must act within a limited period of time in order to expand the minimum living space for each prisoner. (HCJ 1892/14 ACRI v. Public Security Minister).


The bill, formulated to comply with the Supreme Court ruling, extended the time period of administrative or early release in a gradual manner according to a prisoners’ period of imprisonment, irrespective of his/her classification by the IPS (as a “security prisoner” or as a criminal prisoner). According to media reports, Knesset Committee Chairman MK Yoav Kish said the law may result in the early release of hundreds of "security prisoners", and declared his intention to amend it.


The petition, submitted by Adalah Attorney Rabea Eghbariah, challenges the constitutionality of Section 3(b) of new law, which he argues creates separate legal channels for prisoners without any substantive distinction, violates their right of equality, infringes upon their liberty and dignity, and fails to meet the other protected rights.


Adalah and ACRI submitted the petition on behalf of two Palestinians from the occupied West Bank who were convicted in juvenile military courts as minors and sentenced respectively to 20 and 29 months of imprisonment. The new law prevents these minors from administrative early release, which would have shortened their imprisonment by three and six months, respectively. Nevertheless, under the new law individuals classified as criminal prisoners and sentenced to longer terms of imprisonment, arguably for more serious offenses, will receive earlier release.


Adalah and ACRI emphasize that the new law was enacted on the basis of irrelevant considerations, as a response to media reports, and contrary to the original format adopted by the government. The law in its present form constitutes a severe violation of the principle of equality before the law and, as a result, a violation of the dignity and freedom of the prisoners.


Adalah Attorney Rabea Eghbariah added: "This is a populist legislative process – the motives of which are vindictive and invalid – that led to a law that creates arbitrary distinctions and parallel legal tracks without substantive justification, which undermines the proposed purpose for such legislation. One cannot ignore the fact that the group of prisoners who were excluded from the law are almost all Arab Palestinians. This is an unconstitutional amendment that continues to unnecessarily aggravate the harsh distinctions imposed from the outset only on 'security prisoners'".


A Supreme Court hearing on this case is scheduled to take place on 10 June 2019.


HCJ 1406/19, Abed XXX, v. The Knesset, et. al. (case pending)


CLICK HERE to read the petition [Hebrew]


(Thumbnail image by Mati Milstein/Adalah)