Tuesday, 10 May 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
81. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the response of the Government to reports that Israeli authorities are holding 600 Palestinians without charge under what Israel terms administrative detention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22880/22]
Time and again we see the total disregard Israel has for international law. We have seen it again in its illegal detention of up to 600 Palestinian prisoners without charge or trial in what is described as administrative detention. What actions are being taken to hold Israel to account for its flagrant breaches of international law in this regard?
I am aware of reports of the scale of administrative detention currently in operation by the Israeli authorities. I have called on the Israeli authorities to end this practice completely.
Ireland’s position on these issues is, and will continue to be, based on international law. Detainees must have the right to be informed of the charges underlying any detention, have access to legal assistance, and receive a fair trial. Ireland has repeatedly recalled to Israel the applicability of international human rights standards and international humanitarian law in respect of detainees, in particular obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Ireland has been proactive in consistently highlighting these issues at the UN Security Council during our current term, including calling for progress on prisoners' issues and raising concerns regarding the detention of minors. At the Human Rights Council, Ireland has called on the Israeli authorities, in accordance with their obligations under Article 9 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to refrain from conducting arbitrary arrests and to follow the acceptable procedure established by law regarding arrest and detention. Ireland also made a recommendation to Israel regarding the treatment of detainees during the universal periodic review of Israel at the Human Rights Council in 2018, expressing concern at Israel’s extensive use of administrative detention in particular. I have also raised these issues myself directly with the Israeli authorities during my visits to the region. I have been there quite a few times now.
Ireland’s representative office in Ramallah continues to provide support in the monitoring of individual detainee cases. In addition, both Ireland and the EU provide financial support to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs that are active in bringing to light issues regarding the treatment of detainees. The overall human rights situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory remains a priority, and Ireland will continue to take every opportunity to raise this with all appropriate interlocutors.
As the Deputy knows, I met the Palestinian foreign minister, as did the Deputy's party, in recent days. We discussed a range of issues some of which I will raise at the Foreign Affairs Council.
When a democratic state arrests and detains someone, it is required to charge the person, present its evident in an open trial, allow for a full defence and try to persuade an impartial judiciary of its obligations beyond a reasonable doubt. Administrative detention, as the Minister is well aware, in contrast allows a state to arrest and detain a person without charge, without a trial, without knowing the evidence against him or her and without a fair judicial review.
In violation of international law, more than 600 Palestinians, including in excess of 160 minors, are being held by Israel based on secret evidence and are being for renewable six-month periods. In response to a previous question, the Minister said that the UN Security Council would hold any other country to account for breaking international law to the same standard as Russia. In that light, what actions are being taken by the international community, including the UN Security Council, to hold Israel to account?
I have just told the Deputy about a range of things we have been doing in terms of raising the matter. However, Ireland does not control the foreign policy decisions of other countries. We try to make arguments that can build consensus around international action on a range of things, including the Middle East peace process, be it arbitrary detention, illegal expansion of settlements, settler violence, forced evictions or terrorism against Israeli citizens by Hamas and others. We raise these issues all the time. I am probably the most vocal foreign minister on the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. I will be talking about this issue again in the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday when we will discuss the European Commission needing to release funding that is due to the Palestinian Authority from last year, which has not yet happened despite-----
The Minister is well aware that several Palestinians in administrative detention have gone on prolonged hunger strike in protest, with many developing lifelong health issues. One individual, Khalil Awawdeh, is in his 69th day of hunger strike. He was detained on 27 December 2021 and placed in administrative detention without charge or trial based on secret evidence. The international community is failing utterly in not acting in a coherent manner regarding breaches of international law and human rights, neither of which are à la carte. While the Minister cannot speak for the international community, he has a voice which, in fairness, he is not afraid to use, but we must act unilaterally to hold Israel to account. That means taking action ourselves if the international community is going to stick its head in the sand and allow these grave human rights violations to take place.
We often have these discussions in respect of acting unilaterally on the assumption that Ireland doing something on a unilateral basis will force fundamental change internationally. That is not always the way it works. From my experience of international politics, you must build consensus and coalitions around change and pressure, which is why we are putting pressure on Russia as a collective in the EU. Does the Deputy think Ireland on its own would be able to change direction? I doubt it.
As already stated, the Government has been proactive in raising the issue of Palestinian prisoners across a range of multilateral fora, as well as in our bilateral contacts with Israel. We will continue to do that. I reiterate Ireland's commitment to the rights of all detainees to a fair trial and our strong support for calls to end the practice of administrative detention. Ireland's approach to this issue as part of our overall policy relating to the Middle East peace process, which emphasises the role of international law and international humanitarian law, will remain a priority.