UN called on to investigate repression of human rights defenders

The following press release was issued by Addameer, The Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall) and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) on 9 February 2010:

Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council should intervene with relevant Israeli authorities in all cases of Palestinian human rights defenders arrested in relation to their advocacy work on the Wall and its associated, unlawful regime; demand the immediate cessation of the use of impermissible force by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian protestors and pressure Israel to put an end to its policy of arbitrary detention.

A joint report submitted by Addameer, The Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall) and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) to Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council examines the ongoing, systematic campaign of repression levied by Israel against Palestinian human rights defenders active against the Annexation Wall. Since June 2009, Israeli authorities have arrested nearly three dozen villagers involved in anti-Wall protests from Bilin, where weekly protests have been held every Friday since 2005, and more than 38 from Nilin, including 20 in the last month. At present, Addameer estimates that there are at least 56 Palestinian human rights defenders held in Israeli custody. Based on evidence collected in the villages of Nilin, Bilin, al-Masara, Beit Duqqu and Jayyus, the report concludes that charges levied against Palestinian human rights defenders and repressive policies are designed to criminalize legitimate human rights activities.

As international attention increasingly focuses on the communities in the West Bank that continue to oppose the Wall and the roster of accompanying human rights violations, Israeli suppression of such activity has been escalating in response. In a most recent event, on Monday, 8 February 2010, Israeli forces raided Stop the Wall’s office in Ramallah. The Israeli soldiers invaded the area in ten military jeeps and proceeded with a thorough search of the NGO’s [nongovernmental organization’s] office, confiscating computer hard disks, laptops, video cameras, documents, CDs and video cassettes.

For Palestinian human rights defenders active against the Wall, Israeli intimidation efforts are pervasive: Israeli military orders ban all political activity and demonstrations in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory], whether peaceful or not; Palestinians who exercise their fundamental human rights to expression and peaceful assembly and take part in the demonstrations anyway are harassed, threatened, arrested, detained, and prevented from traveling abroad to speak about their resistance efforts, or are harassed even more upon their return; those who are charged with offenses in the Israeli military courts face almost certain conviction and imprisonment by a military justice system that is heavily biased against them; those who are not charged are nonetheless often levied with administrative detention — indefinite detention without charge or trial — large fines and bans from participating in demonstrations of any kind, and are frequently subjected to increased threats and harassment by Israeli forces, both individually and with their community.

International human rights and humanitarian law recognize and codify a number of international standards applicable to the Palestinians involved in protests against the Wall, including freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, the right to life, humane treatment and freedom from discrimination, and protection as human rights defenders.

To avoid further arbitrary arrests, injuries and deaths in villages affected by the Wall, UN Special Rapporteurs should therefore intervene immediately and investigate all cases of repression of Palestinian human rights defenders and publicly report on their findings.