Scales for Justice (S4J) has sent a joint urgent appeal to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urging him to intervene in view of an escalating wave of arrests against prominent human rights defenders and activists in Palestine at the end of the year 2017.
Background: Ever since the US President Donald Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, Israeli forces have brutally cracked down all forms of popular resistance. About 15 Palestinians were killed, thousands wounded and at least 610 Palestinians arrested during protests, ambushes, and night raids.
At the end of 2017 Israeli forces have further conducted a targeted arrest campaign against leading activists of the Palestinian popular struggle. This wave of arrests is a blatant attack against the freedom of expression that demands an immediate intervention by the UN.
The escalating wave of arrests began on Tuesday 19 December 2017, with 16-year old Ahed Tamimi from Nabi Saleh being arrested for a video of her slapping an Israeli soldier, after her 14-year-old cousin had been shot with a rubber bullet into his face. After the video went viral, a public witch-hunt began, and leading politicians demanded the highest possible punishment against her and her family. Ahed’s detention was extended over and over again to find material from past incidents that occurred a year and a half ago and earlier, which until her current arrest had not been reported and for which she had not been arrested. There were no complaints or reports about them. On 1 January 2017 Ahed was indicted on 12 charges including aggravated assault and incitement. The next hearing regarding the prosecution’s request to keep her in detention will take place on Monday 8 January 2018. It is clear that Israel wants to set a warning example to others, rather than granting Ahed a fair trial in accordance with international law.
On Tuesday 19 December, Ahed’s mother, Nariman Tamimi, was arrested when she attempted to be present during her daughter’s interrogation. She was arrested upon arrival and ever since is held in HaSharon prison inside Israel, in a clear breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. On 1 January 2017 Nariman was indicted of 5 charges including incitement and assault. The next hearing regarding the prosecution’s request to keep her in detention will take place on Monday 8 January 2018. The trial against her must be seen as collective punishment against members of the Tamimi family with the aim to deter others from taking part in the popular struggle against the illegal occupation and confiscation of their lands.
Early Wednesday 20 December 2017, Ahed’s 21-year old cousin and student of journalism, Nour Tamimi, was arrested during a raid on her home on suspicion of being involved the incident on Friday, 15 December 2017. On Sunday, 31 December 2017 Nour was indicted with aggravated assault and interfering with soldiers. She is now in investigative detention for additional 100 days. It is clear that also in Nour’s case Israel is trying to set a warning example to deter others from taking part in the popular struggle, rather than granting her a fair trial.
On Wednesday, 27 December 2017, prominent human rights defender and head of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC), Munther Amira, was arrested during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and demanding freedom for the Tamimi women. Video footage of his arrest makes clear that he is singled out during the protest for his prominent role in the popular resistance. Munther is accused of ‘participating in an illegal protests’ and stone throwing, although the video footage proves this accusation a lie. Munther Amira is still being held in Ofer prison. His detention has been extended until 3 January 2018.
On Thursday, 28 December 2017, prominent activist Manal Tamimi from Nabi Saleh, was arrested during a protest in front of Ofer military court demanding freedom for her family. Manal’s arrest was filmed by her husband, Bilal Tamimi. Manal is charged with participation in an illegal demonstration, obstructing the army’s work and assaulting a soldier. This is although a video footage of her arrest makes clear that she is directly targeted for her prominent role in the popular resistance. On Monday, 1 January 2018 it was decided to release her on Tuesday on bail of 2000 NIS, but the release has been delayed.
During the same protest, on Thursday, 28 December 2017, Israeli forces also arrested Jamil Barghouti, the head of the Palestinian Authority committee against the separation barrier and settlements, who replaced the deceased replaced Ziad Abu Ein. Ever since he has been held in Ofer military prison. He is accused of participating in illegal demonstrations, attacking soldiers and hindering the army from doing its work. He is still being held in detention although a judge ruled based on a video footage that there was no evidence he had broken the law and ordered his immediate release. Barghouti is clearly targeted for his prominent role in the popular Palestinian resistance movement. He states that the policemen singled him out in advance during the protest and were talking among themselves about wanting to arrest him.
On 31 December 2017, on his 58th birthday, Israeli forces also arrested prominent human rights defender and retired Major General Yousef Sharqawi from Bethlehem at a checkpoint east of Jerusalem. Eyewitnesses said that the Israeli forces arrested Al-Sharqawi when the vehicle was stopped by soldiers, and he was asked to show his ID card . He is currently held in Ofer and accused of incitement. His arrest must be seen in the context of reprisals against leading activists at the end of the year 2017. He was released on bail of 2000 NIS on 2 January 2018.
The arrest campaign against leading faces of the popular struggle in Palestine at the end of 2017 is a blatant attack against the freedom of expression that demands an immediate response from the UN. The arrets campaign is clearly aimed at deterring public protests against US President Donald Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and the illegal occupation and confiscation of Palestinian land by Israel and the international community cannot remain silent .
The undersigned therefore urged the High Commissioner to
• Immediately remind Israel of its obligations under international law to protect the right to freedom of expression
• Use all diplomatic means to demand from Israel to end its arrest campaign against leading human rights activists in Palestine
• Issue a public statement demanding fair trials for the human rights activists in accordance with international law
• Follow their cases closely and send observers to all trials and hearings
The appeal was signed by
- Scales for Justice (S4J), Geneva, Switzerland
- Code Pink, women for peace, USA
- Youth Against Settlements (YAS), Palestine
- Albertville Jourdain Vallée Solidarité, France
- BDS Nederland, Netherlands
- Stichting Diensten en onderzoek centrum Palestina, Netherlands
- Vereniging Palestijnse Jongeren in Nederland, Netherlands
- The Rights Forum, Netherlands
- Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
- Initiative for the Detainees’ Rights, Greece
- International Solidarity Movement (ISM), France
- AFPS GERS (32) – collective of 30 associations, France
- CAPJPO-Europalestine, France
- Association Belgo Palestinienne régionale de Liège, Belgium
- AMPP (Association Méruvienne Pour la Palestine), France
- Orléans Loiret Palestine, France
- Comité de vigilance pour la démocratie en Tunisie asbl, Belgium
- Mouvement Citoyen Palestine, Belgium
- Comité Verviers Palestin, Belgium
- Collectif 69 de soutien au peuple palestinien, France
- Boycott from Within, Israel
- ICAHD – Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Israel
- AFPS 59/62 (Nord/Pas de Calais), France
- Een Ander Joods Geluid, A Different Jewish Voice, Netherlands
- Staat van beleg, Netherlands