Israel extends detention of Palestinian-French human rights worker

Salah Hamouri (GUE/NGL)

Israeli military occupation authorities on Monday renewed for four months the detention of Palestinian-French human rights defender Salah Hamouri.

Hamouri, who works with the prisoners rights group Addameer, has been held in “administrative detention” since Israeli forces detained him last August.

Under this holdover from British colonial rule, Israeli occupation authorities can hold Palestinians without charge or trial for periods that can be renewed indefinitely.

“This news is not a defeat for us, those who have worked since 27 August 2017 to defend the rights of our fellow citizen, but it is a profound defeat for French diplomacy,” Hamouri’s wife Elsa Lefort wrote on Facebook.

She criticized French President Emmanuel Macron, who claims to lead a “strong France,” but “allows himself to be humiliated by Israel and lowers his head when he would be banging his fist on the table if Salah were detained by any other country.”

“He chooses to stay”

While Lefort emphasized that her husband is one of 450 prisoners currently in administrative detention, Addameer noted the personal cost to this particular family.

“Due to the fact that [Hamouri’s] wife has been banned from entering Palestine, this extension of his imprisonment means that there will be another four months where he cannot see his young son,” the group stated.

Addameer dismissed Israel’s claims – unsupported by any charges or evidence – that Hamouri represents a “security threat,” asserting that he is being held for his work which involves documenting the conditions faced by Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

“Ultimately, Salah could just leave this all behind as he is a French national,” Addameer added. “Though this is why his sacrifice is all the more admirable. Despite the cost, he chooses to stay and struggle towards self-determination.”

France’s failure

Addameer also noted the failure of France’s “closed door diplomacy” and urged French and European Union officials to “publicly condemn the illegal imprisonment of their citizen.”

It was not until two months after Hamouri was arrested that the government in Paris finally broke its silence and said that it was “concerned” about his detention.

“The systematic and abusive use of administrative detention undermines the right to a fair trial and the right to a defense,” the French foreign ministry said last October. “We demand that all the rights of Salah Hamouri be respected and hope for his release.”

Human Rights Watch has also condemned Hamouri’s detention and urged Macron to raise his case with Israeli leaders.

Earlier this month, Palestinian prisoners announced they would boycott hearings in Israel’s military courts – which have a near-100 percent conviction rate – until Israel ends the practice of administrative detention.


In contrast to the French government’s inaction, activists across France and Europe have mobilized in Hamouri’s support.

Members of parliament have continued to demand Hamouri’s release with increasing urgency as his detention hit the six-month mark:

The municipal government of Ivry on Monday called on Macron to meet with Hamouri’s wife, and earlier this month hundreds of people rallied in the Paris suburb to demand his freedom.

City officials in Pamplona, the capital of Spain’s Navarre province, issued a similar call.

Despite the disappointment that her husband remains behind Israeli bars, Elsa Lefort says the campaign is paying off.

She credited the broad mobilization with forcing the French government to take a position on the matter, and even with pushing Macron to address a demand to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his liberation, “though surely expressed very timidly.”

“Together we have pushed the boundaries and we will continue to press French authorities to meet their responsibilities,” Lefort said. “We will push them to respect Salah’s rights and do everything necessary to gain his freedom.”