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Israeli Supreme Court Judges Tour Detention Camp in Negev

Responding to an appeal made on behalf of several inmates, three Israeli supreme court judges paid an unusual visit Tuesday to the notorious Ketziot detention camp in the Negev.

The justices, escorted by senior Israel Defense Force officers and state prosecutors, came to check conditions in the desert camp, where inmates complain they are treated unfairly and are being imprisoned in violation of international law.

The visit followed an appeal submitted to the High Court of Justice several weeks ago on behalf of several inmates demanding that conditions in the camp be improved.

The judges, led by Meir Shamgar, the court president, began their tour by attending a session of the Military Appeals Board, which hears the inmates’ petitions against their imprisonment.

The judges then moved on to the camp itself, and met with some of the 2,750 inmates.

Of those prisoners, most are under administrative detention orders, or are being detained while awaiting trial, for periods of up to six months. Only 250 have already been convicted.

Among their milder complaints are criticism of the food and the scant distribution of newspapers.

But their more serious charge is that Israel is violating the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners from occupied territories to the occupying power’s own territory.

Israel has denied the charge, saying the Geneva Convention does not apply to the unique security threats represented by Palestinian instigators in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Ketziot was the site of a violent demonstration last month. The army has not yet publicized the findings of the inquiry into the riot, which led to the fatal shooting of two inmates, but reports said an initial investigation found that the shooting was justified.

Ketziot is one of four detention camps set up by the authorities to handle an overflow of detainees as a result of the nearly 9-month-old uprising.

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