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Israel Outlaws Detention Center Holding African Migrants Without Trial

JERUSALEM — Israel’s high court on Monday outlawed a detention center where African migrants are held without trial and ordered some 2,000 inmates there released over the next three months.

The ruling struck down a measure passed by Israel’s parliament in December to indefinitely incarcerate migrants, most of them from Sudan and Eritrea, in a measure criticized by human rights groups as an attempt to force migrants to leave.

Israeli leaders have denounced the migrants they refer to as “infiltrators” as harmful to Israel, and largely stopped their entry by fortifying a fence along the Egyptian border in 2012, later offering financial incentives to those agreeing to leave, and detaining thousands.

In their groundbreaking decision acting on appeals by human rights groups, Israeli justices ordered authorities to shut a detention center called Holot opened a year ago in the southern Negev desert, and release some 2,000 Africans being held there.

The decision gives Israel three months to implement the ruling, but orders an immediate liberalization of rules for Holot inmates effective Wednesday, by allowing them to report to wardens twice rather than three times a day.

Justice Uzi Vogelman, one of seven of nine justices finding against the detention center, wrote that the “measure is disproportionate and unconstitutional and there is no choice under the circumstances but to order the law canceled.”

Rights to Freedom and Dignity

“There is almost no right that isn’t violated as a result [of incarceration]. It negates one’s right to freedom and hurts one’s right to dignity,” Vogelman also said, according to a summary of the ruling issued by Israel’s courts authority.

More than 40,000 Eritreans and Sudanese are in Israel, human rights groups say based on Israeli population figures. Many had entered Israel illegally since 2011.



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