Ameer Makhoul’s arrest is an assault on all Palestinians in Israel

26 May 2010

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Ameer Makhoul (Adri Nieuwhof)

Today is the 21st day since the arrest of Ameer Makhoul at his home in Haifa, Israel, under the cover of darkness, by officers of the International Crimes Investigation Unit and General Security Service (GSS or Shabak). The arrest was conducted in a brutal and terrifying manner. Our house was raided, its contents ransacked and various pieces of equipment and objects of special value to us were confiscated. Violations of our fundamental rights to human dignity and privacy were committed, and physical, verbal and psychological violence were employed against us and in front of Ameer’s two daughters. On this day we, Ameer’s family, announce that we are extremely worried about what is happening to him and the conditions of his detention.

We know that Ameer has suffered and continues to suffer from acute pains in his head, his back and in both of his legs as a result of the severe torture he was subjected to, in breach of his most basic human rights. These include the rights to sleep, drink and eat, and the rights to dignity and not to be exposed to humiliating and degrading treatment. His complete isolation from the outside world, the control exercised over him by the GSS interrogators, and he has been interrogated for hours and days on end without sleep, while in shackles and bound by his hands and feet to a low chair in a way that does not allow him to move. This causes him severe pain, from which he still continues to suffer, resulting in his losing his sense of time and ability to think and concentrate, and in his mental disorientation. These methods are illegal under Israeli and international law.

For the past 21 days, the court has refused to allow Ameer’s attorneys to read the medical report written by a doctor who visited him twice during the interrogation. It also refused to allow an independent doctor sent from Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR-I) to examine him, as demanded by Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations, including Adalah, PHR-I and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. These refusals raise concerns and questions about the information that the GSS, with the backing of the court, wants to conceal regarding the conditions of his detention and their methods of interrogation.

We wonder what the GSS is hiding and why it is stalling. Is it in order to hide signs of the physical and psychological violence it has inflicted upon him? Why has the court given its consent to these procedures?

What particularly worries us is that Ameer continues to complain of acute pains, and his eyesight has deteriorated, which has compelled him to ask for a stronger pair of glasses. This raises the questions: How and why this severely diminished eyesight was caused during his detention? What methods of interrogation were used which led to this physical deterioration and caused him to experience and complain of acute pains?

Yet there are bigger questions, with implications not just for Ameer but for all Palestinians in Israel: what is the Israeli security establishment trying to cover up?

Why is the court colluding with the GSS and concealing the conditions of detention and methods of interrogation and torture that have been used against Ameer?

Why did the court block the publication of the details of Ameer’s affidavit as it relates to the illegal methods of interrogation used against him? Ameer discussed these interrogation methods in his initial meeting with his lawyers, which was held after almost two weeks of being banned from access to legal counsel.

We appeal to the local and international communities and to individuals to continue to act quickly to put pressure on the Israeli government and legal system to open an independent investigation into the methods used by the GSS interrogators against Ameer, and to demand the indictment of those responsible for the use of torture against him. We also call on the local and international communities to consider any indictment by the GSS to have been fabricated and extorted under torture and gained solely by obstructing democratic freedoms and human rights. These acts are invalid and illegitimate, and in flagrant violation of international law.

We call on the local and international communities to demand that the Israeli authorities immediately halt this trial, which is based on an investigation in which Ameer was prevented from defending himself in any genuine manner. Ameer has been denied the most fundamental basic human rights to which he is entitled under Israeli and international law. In addition, the independence of the judiciary and democratic freedoms were dangerously subjected to the dictates of the GSS in this case.

We greatly appreciate the community, institutional and individual solidarity with Ameer on the local and international levels, and all efforts to defend his freedom. We are aware of the importance of the role played by all political movements and political parties in challenging the circumstances of Ameer’s arrest, and this attack against the Arab public and its leadership, and on democratic freedom and human rights. We are also aware that the clear strategic choice of the Arab public in Israel has been and continues to be that of unyielding and legitimate political struggle.

The fact is that Ameer Makhoul does not belong to any specific political party. Rather, he reserves for himself an independent position, which is a clear indication that the main target of this attack is the Arab Palestinian public and their leadership, their rights and freedoms. Defending the freedom of Ameer and his rights as a detainee, and rejecting incitement against Arab citizens in light of his detention, are not an individual or class issue, but a national, democratic mission.

The real indictment is against the GSS and the Israeli establishment, which are trampling on democratic freedoms and human rights and resorting to illegal methods of interrogation and torture.

Janan Abdu is the partner of Ameer Makhoul.

Issam Makhoul is brother of Ameer Makhoul.