On 13 January 2010, Mohammad Othman and Jamal Juma, Palestinian human rights defenders active in the campaign against the annexation wall unlawfully constructed by Israel in occupied Palestinian territory, were finally released from Israeli detention. Addameer and Stop the Wall contend that both were arrested in an effort to curb the success of their peaceful activities in defense of Palestinian human rights.
Addameer and Stop the Wall would like to express a heartfelt and sincere thank you to everyone who took action on behalf of Mohammad and Jamal. Since 1967, the Israeli military court system in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has operated with frightening impunity, rarely if ever, upholding fair trial standards. The military courts are neither independent nor impartial, fall far short of acceptable international standards, and act in all cases in the interests of the occupying power and the military security apparatus. Addameer and Stop the Wall therefore believe that Mohammad and Jamal owe their release entirely to diplomatic pressure, interventions by the United Nations, grassroots solidarity campaigns and numerous statements and urgent appeals issued by international, Palestinian and Israeli human rights nongovernmental organizations, and not as a result of this terminally flawed military justice system.
While Addameer and Stop the Wall celebrate Mohammad and Jamal’s release, we wish to remind the international community that an Israeli campaign of repression and arrest against human rights defenders active against the wall continues. Most recently, on 12 January 2010, three such human rights defenders were arrested by Israeli forces in dawn raids into the West Bank villages of Nilin and Bilin. Ibrahim Ameera, coordinator of the Nilin Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements was arrested from his home. That same night, the Israeli army arrested two members of the Popular Committee in Nilin, Zaydoun Srour and Hassan Musa, and raided the house of S., a youth activist who regularly attends demonstrations, and summoned him for interrogation. In Bilin, Israeli forces also arrested Muhammad Ali Yasin, an anti-wall youth activist.
Meanwhile, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a high school teacher and head of the Bilin Popular Committee Against the Wall, remains in Israeli detention following his arrest on 10 December 2009. Abdallah has been charged with three offenses: incitement, stone throwing and the possession of arms. Among the accusations under the incitement charge, the military prosecution listed Abdallah’s instrumental role in organizing and leading demonstrations against the wall and distributing Palestinian flags to demonstrators, an act which is still considered a “security offense” under Israeli military regulations. Israeli authorities have also accused Abdallah of collecting used M16 bullets and empty sound canisters and gas grenades, used by the soldiers to disperse the crowds at demonstrations, and exhibiting them in a Bilin museum.
Finally, Addameer has learned that, at the end of December, the Bethlehem Area Commander of the Israeli army issued a strong warning to members of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in the village of al-Masara, threatening that demonstrations against the wall would be harshly repressed if they continued in 2010, and that those involved in organizing or attending demonstrations would be arrested and “blacklisted.” Since then, the village has been experiencing night incursions on a regular basis.
Fundamental principles set forth in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders recognize that everyone has the right individually or in association with others, to document human rights violations, collect evidence, provide support and assistance to victims seeking remedies, combat cultures of impunity and mainstream human rights culture and information on an international and domestic level. States therefore bear a duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and also to ensure the protection of all human rights defenders exercising their legitimate rights under international law.
Addameer and Stop the Wall therefore continue to urge the international community, including diplomatic missions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to intervene with Israel, calling for:
- an end to the Israeli practice of arbitrary detention of human rights defenders;
- the immediate release of all human rights defenders involved with the grassroots movement against the wall and settlements spearheaded by “Stop the Wall” campaign;
- full adherence to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights as applied to the Palestinian population in the OPT;
- full respect for the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders; and,
- full implementation of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders
Mohammad Othman, a youth coordinator with the Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall), was released after 113 days in Israeli detention without charge or trial. Mohammad, 34, was arrested by Israeli soldiers on 22 September 2009 at the Allenby Border Crossing as he returned home to the West Bank from an advocacy tour in Norway. On 22 November, after 61 days of physically and psychologically exhausting interrogation, a military court judge ordered the end to Mohammad’s interrogation. The next day, however, Mohammad was placed under administrative detention. Mohammad’s administrative detention was renewed for a one month period on 22 December, but was later shortened by ten days by a military judge in the Court of Administrative Detainees. Although administrative detention is legally permissible only in emergency situations, threatening the “security of the state,” and not as substitute for prosecution where there is no evidence to obtain a conviction, the military judge reduced Mohammad’s detention order on the grounds that there had been no serious developments in the investigation into his case. Addameer and Stop the Wall contend that Mohammad’s administrative detention was clearly arbitrary and based on impermissible grounds, in severe derogation from Israel’s obligations under law.
Jamal Juma is a prominent Palestinian human rights defender, as the Coordinator of the Stop the Wall and as a founding member of several Palestinian civil society networks and non-governmental organizations. Jamal, 47, was released from Israeli detention after spending 27 days at the Moskobiyyeh interrogation center in Jerusalem. Although Jamal is a resident of East Jerusalem, and therefore falls under the jurisdiction of the Israeli civil system, Jamal was interrogated and detained under Israeli military orders, a military justice system that lacks even the most fundamental fair trial guarantees. Although the military prosecution acknowledged in court that they ended Jamal’s interrogation after only eight days, Jamal was held in the Moskobiyyeh detention center for an additional 19 days, without having been charged with a single offense.