Palestine: lawyer Diala Ayesh subjected to arbitrary detention in precarious conditions
8 February 2024
On 19 January 2024, Diala Ayesh was arrested by Israeli forces in Bethlehem. Currently in administrative detention for unknown reasons since 23 January 2024, she is being held in conditions that are inappropriate and incompatible with international standards on deprivation of liberty.
Diala Ayesh, a Palestinian lawyer, was arrested on 19 January 2023 by Israeli security forces. She was crossing a checkpoint between Bethlehem and Rammallah, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
On 25 January, Israel’s Central Military Command for the Occupied Palestinian Territories issued an administrative detention order against Ms Ayesh. These administrative detentions can last up to 6 months and can be renewed several times.
Ms Ayesh is currently incarcerated in Damon prison, which does not appear to offer appropriate conditions for prisoners. Prisoners are overcrowded, unable to see their families, and visits from lawyers are limited. Food is inadequate and of poor quality, hygiene products are in desperately short supply, and some inmates sleep on the floor in cells unsuitable for the cold.
According to Frontline Defenders, the order from Israel’s Central Military Command was issued without charge or trial, and Diala Ayesh did not appear in court. Her lawyer has only been able to see her once, on 23 January 2024. Since her arrest, her family has had no news of her and is not allowed to call or visit her.
Ayesh worked by collecting testimonies and denouncing the abuses of the Palestinian National Authority’s security forces. She is also said to have taken part in visits to Israeli army prisons with other Palestinian lawyers to report on the conditions of prisoners. As a result of her work, Ms Ayesh has reportedly already been harassed, sexually assaulted, arrested and threatened by the Israeli authorities and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
This arbitrary arrest and detention occur against a backdrop of worsening measures against lawyers defending political prisoners in the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as the imprisonment of several Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel. Diala’s case joins those of at least ten other lawyers in Palestine, who have reportedly been subjected to administrative detention with the same particularities:
- Lack of knowledge of the charges against them;
- Incommunicado detention, with no consideration of their particular medical situation, exacerbated by abuses by the security forces;
- Conditions contrary to international standards applicable to the detention of persons.
The judicial review hearing of Ms Ayesh’s detention was scheduled for 4 February, but was postponed and the new date is not known. Neither Ms Ayesh nor her lawyer know the reasons for her detention, given that administrative detention is not accompanied by charges and is based on a general invocation of “security reasons”. There is therefore no judicial procedure enabling the detainee to defend herself.
The Observatory strongly condemns the arrest and unlawful detention of the lawyer Diala Ayesh, as well as the terrible conditions of detention to which she has been subjected.
The Observatory urges the Israeli authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Diala Ayesh and the other Palestinian lawyers held in administrative detention.
The Observatory calls on the Israeli authorities to comply with articles 9 and 14 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law” and that « In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality: (a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him; (b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing;”.
The Observatory calls on the Israeli authorities to respect international standards on detention, in particular the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (“Nelson Mandela Rules”) and the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (“Bangkok Rules”).
The Observatory recalls that the basic principles of the United Nations relating to the role of the Bar, in particular principles 16, 17, 21 and 23, establish that:
Principle 16: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference;”
Principle 17: “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”
Principle 21: “It is the duty of the competent authorities to ensure lawyers access to appropriate information, files and documents in their possession or control in sufficient time to enable lawyers to provide effective legal assistance to their clients. Such access should be provided at the earliest appropriate time.”
Principle 23: “Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly.”
 Frontline Defenders. Diala Ayesh. Online: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/diala-ayesh
 The Jewish Cronicle. ‘They beat me on my breasts and fondled me. Britain must stop funding Palestinian security thugs’. (15 August 2022). Online: https://www.thejc.com/news/world/they-beat-me-on-my-breasts-and-fondled-me-britain-must-stop-funding-palestinian-security-thugs-m71sagjd