Scales for Justice

Working towards peace and reconciliation



Palestinian HRD Abdallah Abu Rahma under imminent risk of imprisonment and deportation  

Scales for Justice (S4J) has urgend the UN to immediately take action in view of a sentence to be handed down on Palestinian HRD Abdallah Abu Rahma, that places him under high risk of imprisonment and/ or deportation from his village following an arrest by the Israeli authorities during the Alwada Cycling Marathon on Friday 13 May 2016.

Following the arrest, and, due to an objection by the police, he was held in arbitrary detention for 10 days and only released on a harsh bail of 15.000 NIS (~3900 USD) on 23 May 2016, despite a ruling by the Ofer military Court dating from 14 June 2016, stating that had to be released immediately and unconditionally.

Abdallah Abu Rahma has been officially charged during a hearing on 1 June 2016 and the trial ever since postponed. A final decision is expected to be taken on 27 September 2016. The prosecution demands long-term imprisonment and/ or deportation from his village. This is despite the fact that a video of his arrest clearly indicates that the protest was entirely peaceful, that Abdallah was directly targeted and mistreated after a verbal dispute with the soldiers who were blocking the road and is not guilty of any agression.

The facts

The Alwada Cycling Marathon was held at the occasion of the al Nakba day in the West Bank. Starting from Ramallah to Bil’In, about 150 cyclists throughout the West Bank participated in the 17 km course, many of whom did not have history of participating in popular protests. The purpose and intention of the marathon was to set a peaceful sign against the Israeli occupation in the spirit of sport and solidarity by cycling through their remaining land from Ramallah to Bil'in. In order to differentiate the event from other popular protests and to avoid clashes, the event started early morning.


About 10:45 in the morning, when participants arrived in the village of Bil’in, the organizers decided to wait 15 minutes until all participants had arrived in order to proceed with the price ceremony. About 10:50 about 150 soldiers approached the participants, informing them that the area had been declared a military zone, giving them a maximum of five minutes to hand over the prices and leave. The organizers of the cycling marathon requested the soldiers to grant them just the time to hand over the awards and promised that the price ceremony would be held peacefully, yet the request was rejected. Instead, the responsible Israeli commander ordered his soldiers to disperse the crowd, and soldiers immediately showered the marathon participants with tear gas.

In view of the violence employed Abdallah Abu Rahma tried to reason with the soldiers. The heavy amount of tear gas made it impossible for participants to leave in the ordered direction, he explained, and many of the participants still had to collect their bags, which they had left on the ground fleeing the tear gas. As Abu Rahma explained S4J, the tear gas employed was especially aggressive and of a sort that had been previously declared dangerous by the OHCHA and the Red Cross.

Once again Abdallah Abu Rahma tried to talk to the soldiers. It is a sports event, he explained, please don't be violent and give us time to collect our bags. I will leave by myself. Nevertheless, he was informed that he was arrested. Asking why, he was told the he did not have the right to refuse. Abdallah Abu Rahma begged the soldiers, but in vain. As the video shows he was violently arrested, beaten with sticks, handcuffed and blindfolded, before being transferred to Ofer military prison. An Israeli activist arrested the same time was released the same day in a clear act of discrimination.

Arriving at prison Abdallah Abu Rahma had to wait between 4 p.m. and 12 p.m. for an interrogation lasting 30 minutes. The judge harshly questioned him about previous HR activities, particularly in relation of the Friday protests taking place in Bil’In every week. Denying all accusations, Abdallah Abu Rahma arrived at his cell about 1:30 in the night of Saturday 14 May 2016. All together he had been handcuffed for 12 hours – although the distance between Court and jail is about 300m.

Abdallah Abu Rahma embraces his daughter after his release 2011

A first hearing took place on Saturday 14 May. After seeing the previously mentioned video, the judge decided to release Abdallah Abu Rahma without any conditions and even got angry with the soldiers for the violence employed. Nevertheless, he granted the police 24 hours to object the decision.

Despite Court decision that the following days Abdallah Abu Rahma had to undergo several hearings, each time with a new judge. During a hearing on the third day he was harshly interrogated with regard to his participation in Friday protests in Bil’In. Denying all accusations, Abdallah was presented Facebook pictures and the judge yelled at him, showing more and more Facebook pictures. The police requested another week for investigation.

On the fourth day, Tuesday 17 June 2016, the judge used all used all material on Abdallah Abu Rahma’s case related to his HR activities dating from 2005 on, stating that the situation was similar and that his file was “too bad”. "About 5 times you have been arrested", he said, "yet you still continue". It therefore was difficult to release Abdallah on probation, the judge concluded. The police was granted another 72 hours to present evidence.

On Sunday 22 May 2016 Abdallah Abu Rahma was requested to pay a 15.000 NIS (~3900 USD) fine, before being released on Monday 23 May 2016. Numerous times the judge insisted that Abu Rahma should stay in prison for a “very long time” for being a leader of the popular resistance.

Conclusion

S4J considers Abdallah Abu Rahma's arrest and the accusations against him a scandal. Not only did he need to pay the harshest possible fine for an incident where there is clear evidence that he is not guilty of any violence, his arrest and the subsequent procedure are also clearly aimed at punishing him for his HR activities rather than the incident in question. The procedure against Abdallah Abu Rahma therefore must be seen in the broader context of his leading role in organizing protests and any additional sentence would be inacceptable.

Since many years Abdallah is systematically targeted by the Israeli authorities for his human rights activities, who attempt by all means to deter prominent Palestinians from their legitimate right of taking part in the popular struggle against the illegal occupation and confiscation of their land. Abdallah Abu Rahmas treatment is therefore a clear violation of Article 9 of the ICCPR, holding that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention”, as well as a serious attack on the freedom of expression grounded in article 19 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.

In view of the sentence to be handed down on Abu Rahma on 13 July 2016 and the severe punishment he might face, action could not be more urgent. S4J therefore called on the UN to

  • Closely follow the case against Abu Rahma
  • Express concern about the mistreatment and unfair trial against Abdallah following his latest arrest
  • Urge the Israeli authorities to clear Abu Rahma from vexatious charges and allegations
  • Urgently remind the Israeli authorities of their obligation under international law to guarantee freedom of speech and end their systematic harassment of human rights defenders

Between 2010/ 2011 Abdallah Aburahma has already served 16 months on dubious charges. On 23 February 2015 he was further convicted to a four months suspended sentence for three years in what has to be seen as a clear kangoroo court.

Read his case history here

If you are a human rights defender and facing reprisals send an email to info@s4j.ch