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Israel: Detention of Unlawful Combatants

(Sept. 8, 2008) On July 30, 2008, the Knesset (Israel's parliament) passed an amendment to the Detention of Unlawful Combatants Law, 5762-1992. The original law defines an “unlawful combatant” as a person who participated in hostile actions against the State of Israel, either directly or indirectly, or belonged to a force that conducts activities that do not qualify the perpetrator for the status of a prisoner of war under international humanitarian law, as detailed in section 4 of the Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (Aug. 12, 1949, the Third Geneva Convention).

The amendment introduces a hearing procedure prior to the issuance of a detention decree by the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Force and limits the duration and the conditions of temporary detention. The amendment regulates the meetings of unlawful combatants with their attorneys and permits a high-ranking officer or a judge of the district court to prohibit a detainee's meeting with an attorney, for reasons of state or public security, for a period of up to ten or 21 days, respectively, from the date of detention. The amendment further establishes a special military court for review of detainees' cases during periods of emergency, such as periods of large-scale combat activities as declared by the government. (Detention of Unlawful Combatants (Amendment and Temporary Provision) Amendment and Law, 5768-2008, (Mar. 19, 2008; July 30, 2008; Aug. 13, 2008), the Knesset website, available at