Scales for Justice

Working towards peace and reconciliation

Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2017

Scales for Justice (S4J) has taken the initiative to nominate Palestinian Human Rights Defender Issa Amro for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2017.  His outstanding role in the Palestinian non-violent is well known and especially in a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the occupation, it is particularly important to recognize the important role of Palestinian human rights defenders, S4J argued. Issa Amro is not only working peacefully for an end of the occupation, but also is also facing a particularly difficult situation in Hebron, which is the only city next to East Jerusalem where settlements have been installed in the very heart of the city. Since many years he has been systematically targeted by Israel forces and settlers alike, and is currently facing a trial on 18 trumped-up charges, that puts him under imminent risk of imprisonment.

The nomination was sponsored by

Louisa Morgantini - former Vice President of the EU Parliament

EAPPI | Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel

The International Youth and Movement to the United Nations (ISMUN)

Albertville Jourdain Vallée Solidarité

Below the text of the nomination

Issa Amro is among the most successful community organizers in Hebron, the only city next to East Jerusalem, where settlements are installed in the very heart of the city. Hebron settlers are notorious for being the most violent and ideologically extreme of the Israeli settler movement. Palestinians in Hebron face over 120 closures, restrictions of movement, and checkpoints.

For almost 15 years Issa Amro has been engaged in a creative, nonviolent campaign against the Israeli occupation. He is founder and coordinator of Youth Against Settlements (YAS). The YAS center, in Tel Rumeida, Hebron, is the central meeting point for activists, international observers and diplomats. The aim of the center is to empower and educate especially young Palestinians, to stand firm and mount nonviolent actions, media, and advocacy work. Further, YAS aims to encourage the population of Hebron to remain in the areas at risk from settlements.

In 2014 Issa Amro led YAS to create a Palestinian kindergarten, the first new infrastructure in Hebron’s H2 section, since 1967. One of the main flagship campaigns of YAS is its yearly Open Shuhada Street Campaign, which is implemented both in Palestine and internationally. In July 2016 YAS embarked on a new cinema project for Hebron’s H2 section, with the goal of the providing hope and infrastructure to the Palestinian the community. Since the outbreak of the so-called knives intifada Issa Amro has further played an important role in discouraging young Palestinians from taking recourse to violence, by teaching them peaceful alternatives of resistance.

His important work has made Issa Amro prime target for Israeli settlers and soldiers alike. Over the years, he has been arrested uncountable times, humiliated, mistreated and received death threats. The situation has deteriorated since 2015. In November 2015, the YAS center was taken under siege, and Issa Amro together with 4 others locked up inside the center, meanwhile settlers chanted in hundreds “Death to the Arabs”.  After the siege ended media equipment worth 15.000 USD had been destroyed/ confiscated.

Between December 2015 and May 2016, the YAS center in Tel Rumeida was declared a military zone. The closure raised concerns by the UN human rights experts, who warned that the continued harassment was simply unacceptable and should cease immediately. Issa Amro was again arrested on 29 February 2016 in relation to a nonviolent protest held as part of the annual Open Shuhada street campaign. No initial reason was given for the arrest, but later he was accused of Facebook incitement and organizing an illegal demonstration.

In September 2016 Issa Amro was summoned to court with 18 Charges dating back to 2010. Issa began trial in Israeli military court in November 2016. The charges are not individually significant, however, taken together they may result in numerous years in prison. On 21 February 2017, the court rejected a request by Issa Amro’s attorney to delete 14 out of the 18 charges for actions that took place 3-6 years ago. The court further claimed that Issa Amro’s conduct carries a potential harm to public security, which overcomes freedom of speech. The trial continued 26 March 2017, a next hearing is set for 27 June 2017.

Issa’s attorney, Gaby Lasky, has stated that it is incredibly unusual for cases to be reopened in the way that Issa’s current charges have been brought back up and that the proper procedures had not been followed. Amnesty International has announced that, if Issa Amro will be sentenced to jail, they will consider him a prisoner of conscience. Concern about the political persecution was included in a U.S. Department of State report released in March 2017, as well as in the annual report to the 34th regular session of the Human Rights Council by the UN Special Rapporteur, Michael Lynk.

The outstanding dedication and commitment of Issa Amro to the Palestinian nonviolent resistance have made him a shining example inside and outside his community. In 2016 he was honored by the Institute for Middle East Understanding. In 2013, he was declared a Human Right Defender by the European Union. In 2011, Issa was a guest of the US State Department. In 2010 he was declared Palestine’s human rights defender of year by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In 2009 he won the One World media award for his involvement in B’Tselem’s “Shooting back” video documentation project.