Prisoners’ association shut down in Israel and West Bank

Palestinian women hold portraits of relatives in Israeli prisons, while Ziad Abu Ein, vice Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Affairs, talks to the media about their meeting with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah, 15 July 2006. (MaanImages/Mushir Abdelrahman)


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Israel.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by several reliable sources, including the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), the Law in the Service of Mankind (Al-Haq), Defense for Children International - Palestine Section (DCI-PS), and the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah), about the closing down of the offices of the organisation “Ansar Al-Sajeen” (Prisoners Friends’ Association) in Israel and in the West Bank.

According to the information received, on September 8, 2006, the offices of Ansar Al-Sajeen in Majd El-Kurum (Galilee) were raided and shut down by the police and the Israeli Shin Bet (General Security Service) in the early morning. The administrative order issued by the Israeli Defense Minister declared Ansar al Sajeen as an illegal organisation. The police also confiscated the organisation’s assets, including 14,000 shekels (around 2,555 euros) dedicated to prisoners and their families, hundreds of legal files and documents, phones, photocopying machines and computers. The administrative order was made in accordance with Article 84-2B of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations (1945)1.

The closure occurred soon after the association launched a campaign to include the cases of 1948 Palestinian prisoners, citizens of Israel, in the current talks for the exchange of prisoners. The organisation would have decided to appeal the order. In addition to the closing of its offices of Tirah (triangle region of Israel) and Majd El-Kurum, Ansar Al-Sajeen’s offices throughout the West Bank were also shut down.

On the same day, the house of Mr. Munir Mansour, Chairperson of Ansar Al-Sajeen, was also searched by the police and members of the Shin Bet. Mr. Mansour’s mobile phone was then confiscated. He was also questioned during one and half hour by the security forces.

Ansar Al-Sajeen, which is registered under the Israeli law, is one of the largest providers of legal representation to Palestinian detainees in Israeli military courts. It pays legal visits to Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israel and advocates for their rights. It also works with prisoners’ families in need and has helped Palestinian families overcome obstacles in organising family visits.

The Observatory condemns the closing down of Ansar Al-Sajeen, which contravenes the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly on December 9, 1998, which guarantees every person’s right “to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” (article 1), as well as article 9c), which states that

1 This Emergency Regulation has been in place since the British Mandate. In 1951, the Knesset ruled that it was in opposition to the basic principles of democracy. Yet, it was never abolished. “everyone has the right to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in Israel, urging them to:

  • put an immediate end to any obstacles to the activities of Ansar Al-Sajeen;

  • put an immediate end to any kind of harassment against all human rights defenders in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories;

  • comply with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular its above- mentioned article 1, article 5(b), stating that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels to form, join and participate in non-governmental organisations, associations or groups”, and article 12(2), which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

  • more generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in accordance with international human rights instruments ratified by Israel.

    Addresses:

    Mr. Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, 3 Kaplan Street, PO Box 187, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91919, Israel. Tel: 972 3 610 9898, Fax: + 972 2 651 2631 / 972 2 670 5555 / 972 2670 5361, E-mail: rohm@pmo.gov.il, pm_eng@pmo.gov.il

    Mr. Tzipi Livni, Minister of Justice, Fax: + 972 2 628 7757; + 972 2 628 8618

    Mr. Amir Peretz, Minister of Defense, Tel: 972 3 697 5423, Fax: 972 2 697 6711, Email: pniot@mod.gov.il

    Mr. Yair Lotstein, Legal Advisor to the Israeli Army in the West Bank, Fax: 972 2 997 7326

    Mr. Menahem Mazuz, Attorney General, Fax: + 972 2 627 4481; + 972 2 628 5438; + 972 2 530 3367

    President of the Appeal Court for Administrative Issues Shlomi Kochav Administrative Court Section Ofer, Fax: +972 (0)2 588 44 45

    Ambassador Itzhak Levanon, Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva, Avenue de la Paix 1-3, CH-1202, Geneva, Switzerland, E-mail: mission-israel@geneva.mfa.gov.il, Fax: +41 22 716 05 55

    Ambassador Stefan Gohanneson, Embassy of Israel in Brussels, 40 avenue de l’Observatoire, 1180 Uccle, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 373 56 17, Email: brussels@israel.org

    Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Israel in your respective country.

    Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

    The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

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