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Scales for Justice

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The UN must take action following arrest campaign against leading human rights activists in Palestine

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 response from the UN.

Escalation
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. After a military court rejected an appeal against an earlier release order, Nour was released in the evening of Thursday 4 January 2018 on bail and harsh conditions, including a requirement to report weekly to a police station. 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. On 3 January 2018 a judge decided to release him, but his detention was over and over extended. On 12 March 2018 he was convicted to 6 months and one day in prison.   Some of the charges included holding signs “rebuking the USA” and “the Balfour Declaration” and holding a sign with activist Ahed Tamimi’s picture on it. Amnesty international called for his immediate release. 

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 Wednesday 3 January 2018 Manal was released on bail of 2000 NIS. After her release Manal Tamimi stated that the arrest had been one of the worst experiences  she had ever been through. Soldiers had clearly singled her out during the protest, she said during an interview with S4J. She had never expected to be arrested during a women protest and still she was captured only five minutes after the beginning of the protest. Soldiers didnt follow any other girl except her. The interrogation later made clear that the arrest had been a set-up, everything had been prepared in advance, Manal Tamimi stated. Soldiers told her she would stay imprisoned for a very long time and one female soldier hit her so badly into her face that she needs medical treatment for the injury. The multiple transfers to different hearings and interrogations together with the long waiting times inside cold cells have further left her ill and with a weak health condition.

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 was 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. He was released on bail of 2000 NIS on 2 January 2018.

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. On Thursday 4 January 2018 a decision was taken to release him.  

Conclusion
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 .

Recalling that in its General Comment no. 32 on article 14 of the ICCPR, the Human Rights Committee noted that the trial of civilians in military or special courts may raise serious problems as far as the equitable, impartial and independent administration of justice is concerned and the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary establish that everyone is entitled to be tried by ordinary courts, 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 freedom 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

  1. Scales for Justice (S4J), Geneva, Switzerland
  2. Code Pink, women for peace, USA
  3. Youth Against Settlements (YAS), Palestine
  4. Albertville Jourdain Vallée Solidarité, France
  5. BDS Nederland, Netherlands
  6. Stichting Diensten en onderzoek centrum Palestina, Netherlands
  7. Vereniging Palestijnse Jongeren in Nederland, Netherlands
  8. The Rights Forum, Netherlands
  9. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
  10. Initiative for the Detainees' Rights, Greece
  11. International Solidarity Movement (ISM), France
  12. AFPS GERS (32) - collective of 30 associations, France
  13. CAPJPO-Europalestine, France
  14. Association Belgo Palestinienne régionale de Liège, Belgium
  15. AMPP (Association Méruvienne Pour la Palestine), France
  16. Orléans Loiret Palestine, France
  17. Comité de vigilance pour la démocratie en Tunisie asbl, Belgium
  18. Mouvement Citoyen Palestine, Belgium
  19. Comité Verviers Palestine, Belgium 
  20. Collectif 69 de soutien au peuple palestinien, France
  21. Boycott from Within, Israel
  22. ICAHD - Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Israel 
  23. AFPS 59/62 (Nord/Pas de Calais), France
  24. Een Ander Joods Geluid, A Different Jewish Voice, Netherlands
  25. Staat van beleg, Netherlands
  26. Plate-forme Charleroi-Palestine, Belgium
  27. Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), UK  
  28. J.J.Wijenberg,former ambassador for The Netherlands

  29. Vlaams Socialistische Beweging (V-SB), Flanders, Belgium 
  30. GAPP (Gents ActiePlatform Palestina), Belgium
  31. Palestina Solidariteit, Belgium