Palestinians hoist the Palestinian flag during a demonstration calling for national unity in the West Bank city of Nablus, 10 August 2008. (Rami Swidan/Maan News)
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the attacks on private and civil society organizations and the continued arrests by Palestinian security forces of Hamas members in the West Bank. PCHR points to the continuation of the detention policy despite the decision issued by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on 31 July 2008 to release all Hamas political prisoners apprehended on the backdrop of the latest events in Gaza. PCHR calls upon the Palestinian government in Ramallah to cease its violations against civil society organizations, to end all forms of arbitrary arrests and to immediately release all political prisoners held by security services in the West Bank.
PCHR’s preliminary investigations indicate that in the evening of Wednesday, 6 August, Palestinian security services raided four benevolent associations and two printing houses in the Hebron Governorate, and confiscated their belongings. The security forces raided the “Mujama’ Islami” Headquarters in al-Thahiriya (south of Hebron), the Islamic Cultural Center in Taffouh (west of Hebron), Benevolent Islamic Society in Beit Ola (northwest of Hebron), and Islamic Orphanage in Beit Ommar (north of Hebron). The security forces confiscated two student buses belonging to the Benevolent Islamic Society School in Beit Ola as well as files and computers from the offices of all the targeted organizations.
In the city of Hebron, security services raided al-Huda Printing House owned by Azzam Azmi Hassouna and Lujayn Printing House owned by Nidal Emran al-Qawasmi, who is detained by Israel. Hassouna informed PCHR’s fieldworker that Preventive Security forces with a search warrant surrounded and raided the printing houses administration office. They thoroughly searched the office and confiscated a computer. In addition, they instructed him to review the issue at the Preventive Security compound on Saturday, 9 August. They did not give him any other written or oral decisions. He also added that the security forces checked the IDs of two customers who were in the printing house at the time, and that they were summoned for an interview at the Preventive Security compound. Hassouna informed the media that he was surprised by the news of the closure of his printing house and other organizations. When he checked the closure issue with the Preventive Security officials, they denied that there was a closure order against the printing house.
Security forces also raided Lujayn Printing House in Salam Street in Hebron. They confiscated files and computers. In addition, the Preventive Security detained Mu’taz al-Ja’ba (25), an employee at the printing house, after he was summoned for questioning on Friday, 8 August.
In another incident at approximately 11:30 on Saturday (9 July), a force from the General Intelligence Apparatus in Hebron raided a warehouse belonging to the Sewing Workshops of the Islamic Benevolent Society in Hebron. The force searched the warehouse, located in Ein Sara Quarter north of Hebron, and confiscated some of the stored materials. The organization’s lawyer was summoned during the raid, and he arrived at approximately 12:00. An argument broke out between the lawyer and the officers, who arrested the lawyer, Abd al-Karim Abd al-Hakim Farrah (32), and took him to the General Intelligence compound. He was still detained at the time of publication.
Regarding the arrests against Hamas members in the West Bank, Palestinian security services detained Walid Mohammad Sobhi al-Sayyed (28) and Islamboli Reyad B’deir (20) from Nablus. Both were detained on 7 August 2008.
Over the past few days in Qalqiliya, the General Intelligence Apparatus detained several Hamas members and supporters. Some were released; and others remain in prison. The detained persons are:
- Bilal Sa’id Suwelem (41), a Qalqilya Municipality Council member
- Mustafa Ali Abdallah Sabri (42), a journalist and a Qalqilya Municipality Council member
- Mohammad Abd al-Rahman Mansour (50), an employee in the Qalqilya Municipality
- Mohammad Farah Rubien (31)
- Ammar Mahmoud Sweleh (41)
- Hasan Abd al-Rahman Mansour (46)
Other Hamas members are still detained by security services in other parts of the West Bank. However, PCHR fieldworkers could not obtain accurate figures on the total number of detainees since governmental sources refrain from divulging such information and due to the absence of official Hamas sources to give such information. Nonetheless, fieldworkers were able to verify the detention of some Hamas members:
- Awad Ibrahim R’joub (35), journalist from Hebron
- Ala El-Tieti (27), journalist from Hebron
- Meqdad Mohammad Mutliq Abu J’heisha (26), university student from Hebron
- Tawfiq Mohammad Haroub (42), teacher from Hebron
- Samih Suliman Mohammad E’leiwi (45), from Nablus
Samih E’leiwi’s wife informed PCHR’s fieldworker that:
“At approximately 7:00pm on Monday 28 July 2008 my husband Samih E’leiwi was detained from our house in Khellet al-Eman Quarter in the city of Nablus. I asked the civilian-clothed, armed men who came to arrest my husband about the security service they belong to; and they simply replied, ‘the joint force.’ They took my husband without showing me or my husband an arrest warrant. I was worried about my husband since he suffered from several ailments that include a hernia in the stomach, a platinum rod in the leg as a result of a traffic accident a few years ago, depression and mental illnesses. He suffered two heart attacks in the past and only drinks distilled water, and drinks milk continuously. The following day I went to J’neid Prison because I assumed that he was taken there. I informed the guards that I came to visit my husband; and I told them about his condition. They informed me that they do not have orders regarding his visits; and I went back home. I contacted several officials from Fatah and security services and informed them about my husband’s condition. I asked them to help me visit my husband; but nothing has happened thus far. Several days later, a woman whose son is detained in J’neid Prison informed me that her son told her that my husband’s health condition is bad, and that he is on a hunger strike to obtain his release. As a result, I am more worried now, and I fear for his life.”
PCHR strongly condemns these violations, and:
1. Calls upon the government in Ramallah to stop the campaign against civil society organizations and to rescind all measures of closure and confiscation against these organizations.
2. Asserts that the right of association is ensured by the constitution and international human rights standards, and that all measures taken by security services and the Izzeddine al-Qassam Brigades violate Law #1 of 2000 Related to Charities and non-governmental organizations.
3. Calls for neutralizing the civil society from the conflict between Fatah and Hamas movements, and stresses that independence of the civil society and the vital role played by non-governmental organizations in providing social, economic, developmental and cultural services.
4. Calls for the immediate release of all political detainees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and reminds of the Palestinian High Court Decision of 20 February 1999 outlawing political arrests; and calls upon all executive parties to respect the High Court decision and retrain from conducting illegal political arrests.