In the implementation of an Israeli military order issued on 10 April 2003, Israeli occupying forces transferred Mahmoud Suleiman Sa’id al-Sa’di al-Saffouri, 31, from his home in Jenin to the Gaza Strip on Sunday morning, 18 May 2003. According to the military order, al-Sa’di will spend two years in Gaza.
Al-Saffouri was arrested on 19 June 2002, when Israeli occupying forces waged a campaign of arrest in Jenin refugee camp. In his affidavit to PCHR, al-Saffouri stated that he had been detained by Israeli occupying forces in Salem detention center in Jenin for two days and was then transferred to ‘Ofar detention center.
Twelve days later, he was moved to a prison in the Negev Desert, where he was placed under a 6-month administrative detention, which was subsequently renewed for another 6 month period. Al-Saffouri was then transferred back to ‘Ofar detention center pending his transfer to the Gaza Strip. According to information available to PCHR, al-Saffouri was neither interrogated nor charged by Israeli occupying forces during his detention, and he was denied family visitation rights.
Al-Saffouri is the brother of Haj ‘Ali al-Saffouri, who has been in incommunicado detention in Beer Saba prison since 18 April 2002. He is accused of being a prominent leader of al-Quds Brigade, the military wing of Islamic Jihad.
This is not the first time forcible transfer has been used by Israeli occupying forces as a means of collective punishment. Palestinian political activists have been deported since Israel first occupied the Palestinian Territories and the measure has been used frequently during al-Aqsa Intifada. On 10 May 2002, Israeli occupying forces deported 13 Palestinians to Europe and 26 others to the Gaza Strip after a 36-day siege on the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. In late August 2002, Israeli forces deported Adib Thawabta from Beit Fajjar village near Hebron to the Gaza Strip and on 5 September 2002, Israeli forces expelled Kifah and Intissar ‘Ajouri from ‘Askar refugee camp in Nablus to the Gaza Strip. However, when the ‘Ajouri ruling was enforced, the Israeli High Court suggested that the decision to expel the ‘Ajouri’s may be the last such approval granted by the court.
PCHR is deeply concerned about the expulsion of al-Saffouri from his home in Jenin to the Gaza Strip. The decision to expel al-Saffouri violates international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949; article 33 provides that “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed;” article 49 prohibits “individual or mass forcible transfers;” and article 147 considers “unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person” as a grave breach.
PCHR strongly condemns al-Saffouri’s expulsion and reiterates that Israeli occupying forces are using deportation as a means of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians, through expelling relatives of Palestinians who allegedly planned or carried out attacks against Israeli targets.
PCHR believes that the decision to expel al-Saffouri reflects Israel’s disregard for the rights of Palestinian civilians, which necessitates immediate international intervention to stop violations of human rights and compel Israel to abolish the policies of collective punishment adopted by Israeli occupying forces against families and relatives of Palestinian political activists and those who planned or carried out attacks against Israeli targets.