Another case of Israeli repression of Palestinian human rights defenders - Latest: November 23, the Israeli military court extended the interrogation period for Salah Khawaja for 9 days. Upcoming court hearing appealing the decision: November 27, 16h at Ofar military detention facility. For more see the fully updated dossier here.
In this dossier, we are presenting the timeline of Salah’s arrest and incarceration, the background of his decades long efforts in defense of human rights, the background of Israeli attacks on human rights defenders, including Stop the Wall activists. We therefore recommend:
to raise immediately your concern about the arrest of Salah Khawaja through the appropriate channels with Israeli officials and ask his immediate release
in accordance with the provisions of the guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, to ensure observer presence at the hearings of Salah Khawaja and reinforce trial observation in Israeli military courts.
for governments to suspend or maintain non-cooperation with Israeli national institutions overseeing and implementing the above mentioned illegal policies of repression.
to ensure effective compliance with third state obligations stemming from the ICJ’s decision on the legal consequences of Israel’s construction of the Wall.
Please see as well Frontline Human Rights Defenders on the issue: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/salah-khawaja-arbitrarily-detained-without-access-lawyer
November 27, 16h: upcoming court hearing at Ofar military detention facility to hear the appeal against the court decision to extend the interrogation period.
Wednesday, November 23: The Israeli military courts decide to extend the interrogation period for Salah Khawaja for another 9 days. Still no charges are being made. Salah is seemingly to be transferred to Ofar prison in the occupied West Bank.
Wednesday November 16: court hearing for Salah Khawaja took place at the Israeli military court in Petah Tikva. The Israeli state prosecution failed to bring any charges against Salah, nevertheless, the military court agreed to grant the Israeli intelligence officers an extension of further eight days of interrogation period. In the meanwhile Israeli forces had stormed once again into the heart of Ramallah in the preceding night and had raided the offices of the Health Development Information and Policy Institute (HDIP), leaving destruction behind and confiscating archives and technological equipment.
The court did, however, finally grant Salah Khawaja access to legal counsel. The lawyer visiting him related that Salah had been subjected to 40 interrogation sessions in the three weeks of imprisonment, lasting 8 to 16 hours each. This alone makes him suffer from severe sleep deprivation. Other forms of ill-treatment have been used against Salah as well. He has reported physical aggression such as being beaten, interrogators spitting in his face, screaming in his ears, kicking his genitals. Psychological pressure and ill-treatment has been used against Salah, including threats against his family members.
Almost coincidentally, around 2 am the night before Salah’s court hearing, some eight military jeep had entered Ramallah, blew open the door of the Health Development Information and Policy Institute (HDIP) with explosive devices, dismantled the CCTV camera system and ransacked the offices. Computer parts, electronic and paper archives have been confiscated while the windows, walls, ceilings and doors of the offices have been randomly destroyed. In the streets, youth defended their city from the invasion and as clashes ensued, Israeli military teargased the area and injured two youths.
November 9: The hearing at the Israeli military court in Petah Tikva ruled Salah Khawaja would be subjected for another 8 days of interrogation. He continued to be barred from access to legal counsel, but the hearing forced the Israeli military to show Salah and his physical conditions after 15 days in prison. Abu Raya related that even after years of working as a lawyer and with the Israeli prison system he was shocked to see the state of his client. The prison authorities kept Salah blindfolded even during the hearing.
In only 15 days, Israeli intelligence officers have conducted 27 rounds of interrogation with Salah - practically non-stop interrogation. Sleep deprived and visibly marked by two weeks of duress and ill-treatment, Salah has lost a worrying amount of weight already.
October 26: At 2 am Salah Khawaja is arrested at his home in the old city of Ramallah without being informed about charges or reasons for his arrest. Entering into the heart of Ramallah, Area A, the Israeli army broke into his apartment, violently searched his place and confiscated computers and the phones of the entire family. His wife and daughter have been traumatised. After a violent search in the house, he was unlawfully detained without being informed of any charges. He has been held for one day incommunicado and is now in Petah Tikva interrogation center without access to legal council. There is reasonable concern Al Khawaja is currently subjected to duress and/or ill-treatment considering that Israel uses such practices regularly and systematically.
Already hours after his arrest, without his lawyer being informed or able to identify the whereabouts of his client, a hearing in the military court had been convened. The military judge initially granted an - even for Israeli standards unusually harsh - 15 days extension of the interrogation period to the prosecution. After an appeal hearing on November 30 requested by his legal counsel, a court hearing has been called for November 9.
Background on Salah Khawaja
Prominent Palestinian human rights defender Salah Al Khawaja has been arrested on the morning of October 26 at 2 amAl Khawaja, 45 years old, was born in Ni’lin and has dedicated his life to the defence of Palestinian human rights. The focus of his work is on empowering local communities to defend their human rights in the face of violations brought about by the occupation. This has lead Israel to imprison him already several times during the early period of his life. Since the start of the Oslo process, Salah Khawaja has dedicated his efforts to the development of Palestinian civil society organizations and practices of nonviolent struggle. He is a founding member of several Palestinian NGOs and civil society networks and is currently completing a masters on non-violent struggle from Beirut university. Al Khawaja is part of the Stop the Wall coordination committee and one of the leaders of the Palestinian National Initiative (Mubadara). He is widely respected for his work and has been invited to address numerous national and international civil society and NGOs conferences and has as well met the diplomatic community in Palestine in many occasions. As a highly visible figure in the struggle against Israel’s illegal Wall and settlement project, Al Khawaja has never attempted to hide or disguise his activities.
Background: Israeli repression of HRD and Stop the Wall activists
The arrest and detention follows the pattern of illegal Israeli policies targeting, among others, human rights defenders and non violent activist, including activists of Stop the Wall.
Attacks on Stop the Wall Campaign
Jamal Juma’ is the co-ordinator of the "Stop the Wall" campaign and a prominent human rights activist. He was arrested by the Israeli authorities on 16 December 2009. He has not been formally charged with any offence since his detention and information relating to his arrest has not been shared with his lawyer. Mohammed Othman, a volunteer with the "Stop the Wall" campaign, had been detained continuously since 22 September 2009. He was arrested on his return from Norway, after meeting activist groups there campaigning against the fence/wall and is being held without charge or trial in Israeli administrative detention. Amnesty International stated at the time: "These men have all been involved in campaigning against the building of this construction, much of it on the land of the occupied West Bank, and we fear that this is the real reason for their imprisonment," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. "If this is the case they must be released immediately and unconditionally." On 13 January 2010, Mohammad Othman and Jamal Juma’, Palestinian human rights defenders active in the campaign against the Annexation Wall unlawfully constructed by Israel in occupied Palestinian territory, were finally released from Israeli detention without any charges being brought against them.
Stop the Wall offices have been raided three times by Israeli military forces that have confiscated archive material and human rights research as well as computer equipment and photo and video cameras used to document Israeli human rights violations.
See for example:
Israeli repression of human rights defenders
It is common Israeli practice to interrogate and detain Palestinians without charge, outside of the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) and prevent lawyers from visiting their clients. These practices are in violation of International Human Rights Law (UDHR art. 9, ICCPR art. 15, 16, 18), International Humanitarian Law (IV Geneva Convention, sec III) and the European Charter of Human Rights forbidding arbitrary detention, illegitimate deprivation of freedom and freedom of movement and destruction of property. Arbitrary detention is forbidden if it is pursued by an occupying power against civilians of the occupied territories without having carried out any violent attack against the occupier. Particularly, the ICCPR quotes, art 9. ‘Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law‘. Khawaja detention outside the occupied Palestinian territories, in Petah Tikva interrogation center, is in direct contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an Occupying Power must detain residents of occupied territory in prisons inside the occupied territory. Conditions in Israeli prisons have been repeatedly been found in violation human rights for the use of ill-treatment and torture. Israel has received since 2001, almost 1000 complaints of torture without ever opening any criminal investigation.
The arrest should be viewed in a wider context of persistent and increasing Israeli repression against Palestinian human rights defenders and activists who, like Al Khawaja, have been successful in their lobbying efforts, at home and abroad, against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, Israel’s continuation of land confiscation and the illegal construction of the Annexation Wall. This year a sharp increase in repression, including arbitrary detentions and use of live ammunition, took place side by side with the demolitions and forced eviction policy. With these arrests, Israel aims to weaken Palestinian civil society and its influence on political decision making at national and international level. The recent increase in illegal practices against human rights defenders, including harassment and ill-treatment, threats, arrests and other forms of restriction of freedom of movement has been highlighted by the latest report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the OPT as well as the concluding observations of the UN Committee against Torture. This directly violates the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and triggers responsibilities of third parties, such as the implementation of the guidelines on Human Rights Defenders issued among others by the EU, the US and OSCE.
It is crucial that the international community combat Israeli attempts to criminalize human rights defenders struggling against Israeli violations of human rights. The Israeli policy of targeting organizers that call for Israeli accountability is a direct challenge to the decisions of governments and global bodies such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hold Israel to account for its violations of international law.
For all these reasons we demand the European Union, the United Nations and political and social organizations to pressure on the Israeli Government for the immediate release of Salah Khawaja and to end the Israeli illegal practices of repression of HRD.