OPT: PCHR condemns Israeli arrests of human rights activists in the West Bank

News and Press Release
Originally published
On 15 December 2009, Jamal Juma', Coordinator of the Stop the Wall campaign, was seized from his home by Israel forces and placed in detention. On 21 December, the Military Court at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem extended his detention by a further four days. Although Juma' is a Jerusalem ID card holder, West Bank military orders have been applied to bar him for access to legal counsel for the first week of his arrest. No charges have been made against Juma', however, it is believed that he is detained in relation to his legitimate activities as Coordinator of Stop the Wall. The arrest of Juma' is only the most recent in a chain of arrests that have targeted prominent Palestinian human rights activists associated with the opposition to Israel's Annexation Wall.

Another member of Stop the Wall, Mohammad Othman, was arrested at Allenby border crossing on 22 September 2009 after returning from an advocacy tour in Norway. He was then subjected 61 days of detention "for the purpose of interrogation." At the end of this period of prolonged interrogation, an administrative detention order was issued on the basis of 'secret evidence' for constituting a "security threat in the area." On 22 December, the administrative detention order for Othman was extended by another month.

A third high-profile activist, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, was arrested on 10 December in his home town of Bil'in, where he leads the Popular Committee Against the Wall. Abu Rahmah was the 31st activist arrested in Bil'in since June 2009. On 22 December the Military Court at Ofer Prison issued an indictment charging Abu Rahma with "incitement, stone-throwing, and possession of arms" - the latter charge in reference to tear gas canisters Israeli forces had shot at demonstrators, which Abu Rahmah had later collected for an exhibition. The detention was extended until 29 December, when the next hearing will take place.

Currently, around 300 Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons without trial as administrative detainees. According to Israeli military order 1591, each administrative detention order can last up to 6 months, yet this period can be renewed indefinitely, often resulting in years of detention without charge or trial, in violation of fundamental principles of international law. By detaining human rights activists for their non-violent work in legal organizations, Israel is illegally widening the definition of state security in order to fit its motives, while infringing on fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of expression, which are protected under international law.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights expresses its concern regarding the increasing number of politically motivated arrests of human rights activist perpetrated by Israel in the West Bank and calls for:

- The immediate release of Mohammad Othman, Abdallah Abu Rahmah and Jamal Juma'

- An end to the illegal policy of employing administrative detention to silence human rights activists and suppress legal political activities and freedom of expression.