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Joint appeal on behalf of Palestinian HRD Abdallah Abu Rahma

Several NGOs have urged the UN to take action on behalf of Palestinian HRD Abdallah Abu Rahma, who was arbitrarily arrested inside a military court room on 24 January 2017. Following the arrest, Abdallah Abu Rahma was held in arbitrary detention for 2 days and only released late evening of 24 January 2017. The night following his release (25/ 26 January 2017) his and the house of his brother were raided and Abdallah Abu Rahma’s computer confiscated.

Read the full letter here


Re: Joint urgent Appeal by Scales for Justice (S4J), CAPJPO-Europalestine and Albertville Jourdain Vallée Solidaritè, on behalf of Palestinian HRD Abdallah Abu Rahma 

To:

Mr. Michael Lynk,  Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967

Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Mr. Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Ms. Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention 

Date: 27 January 2017

Dear Special Rapporteurs,

We are writing to you to express our deepest concern about the continuing reprisals against Palestinian Human Rights Defenders Abdallah Abu Rahma, who was arbitrarily arrested on 23 January 2017 inside a military court room. He was held in detention for over one day and released late evening of 24 January 2017. The night following his release (25/ 26 January 2017) his and the house of his brother were raided and Abdallah Abu Rahma’s computer confiscated.

We refer to Abdullah Abu Rahma, born 15 January 1971, living in the village of Bil’in, near Ramallah, West Bank, Palestine.

The arrest came following months of reprisals by Israeli soldiers, who were following Abdallah Abu Rahma since his latest arrest on 13 May 2016. On this day Abdallah Abu Rahma was arbitrarily arrested during the Alwada Cycling Marathon and held in detention for 10 days. Ever since he has been systematically targeted by Israeli soldiers during non-violent protests, threatening that they would get hold of him.

Abdallah Abu Rahma is currently facing an open trial for the arrest in May 2016. Several hearings have been held, the latest of whom on 11 January 2017. Despite exonerating video evidence, he is accused of being inside a closed military zone, hindering soldiers from doing their work and refusing arrest.  (See our communication from 8 June 2016)

Abdallah Abu Rahma was already subject of a joint communication with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders; on the independence of judges and lawyers; on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, dated 27 January 2015 (case No. ISR 11/2014).

Between 2010/ 2011 Abdallah Abu Rahma has served 16 months on dubious charges and his case raised concerns by high standing officials, including the former spokesperson of the EU High Representative, Catherine Ashton (statement attached).

  

On Friday 20 January 2017, around 50 – 70 Palestinian activists established a protest camp in a park belonging to the illegal settlement Ma’ale Adumim to protest a bill that would annex the area to Israel (a proposal will be submitted to Knesset Committee on Sunday), as well as plans by the US to move their embassy to Jerusalem. The protest was organized by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee PSCC, of which Abdallah Abu Rahma is member.

Shortly after the protest camp had been set up, the Israeli police, together with the border police, raided the camp and declared the area a closed military zone. One of his friends warned Abdallah Abu Rahma, that he had overheard a conversation by the border police that they were looking for him, following which Abdallah Abu Rahma left the scene immediately.

The protest then moved to a main road nearby. Six were arrested, their names Jamil Al-Barghouthi, Ahmed Odeh, Khaled Qtaishat and Lema Nazeeh as well as the brothers Mohammed and Akram Al-Khatib.

A first hearing took place on Sunday 22 January 2017. The judge decided that 4 of the activists, Jamil Al-Barghouthi, Ahmed Odeh, Khaled Qtaishat and Lema Nazeeh should be released, under the conditions of a 7.500 ILS fine per person. As for the two other activists, Mohammed and Akram Al-Khatib, the court decided to keep them under interrogation for two more days. Defense and military prosecution both objected the judgement and the court gave the military prosecutor the right to plea within 24 hours.

A second hearing took place on Monday 23 January 2017. Abdallah Abu Rahma attended the hearing in his role as coordinator with the families of the detained, when he was approached by police offices, who asked for his name and informed him that he was being arrested for interrogation and charged with the same accusations as the other detained. Consistently the judge made a case against 7 activists (6+1). At the end of the hearing it was decided that all activists should be release on conditions of 3000 ILS/each. Despite the decision, Abdallah Abu Rahma continued to be interrogated.

Before the interrogation began, Abdallah Abu Rahma’s belongings were searched and he was literally stripped naked. When soldiers discovered that he was wearing a body belt, which he wore for medical reasons because of an extruded disc, they confiscated the belt. For 30 minutes Abdallah Abu Rahma protested the decision, refusing to move, until he was give the belt back.

During the interrogation, Abdallah Abu Rahma was accused of having been inside Israel without a permit, entering a closed military zone, damaging public property, organizing illegal demonstrations and putting the life of others in danger (by protesting on a main road). Abdallah used his right to stay silent and called for his lawyer, who endorsed his decision to stay silent.

The interrogation ended around 7 p.m. and despite the court’s decision to release all activists, Abdallah Abu Rahma was held in empty, cold cell, without food, freezing to his bones. Around midnight he was then transferred to Ofer military prison, where his belongings were searched again. He arrived in his cell about 1 a.m..

The following morning, 6 a.m., Abdallah was brought to another hearing. His lawyer raised serious concerns that the proper procedures had not been followed by the police, stating that Abdallah Abu Rahma had appeared to the Court many times before and had not been summoned to a police station for interrogation. The prosecution described Abdallah Abu Rahma as a “dangerous person” and organizer of illegal protests. Finally, the judge decided to release Abdallah Abu Rahma without conditions, yet that the case would remain open for another 80 days. The hearing ended at 10 a.m., yet Abdallah Abu Rahma was not released until late in the night.

The night following his release (25/ 26 January 2017), Israeli soldiers raided Abdallah Abu Rahma’s and his brother’s house in the middle of the night. Abdallah Abu Rahma, his wife and their 4 children were not allowed to move and left terrified, meanwhile soldiers checked mobiles and confiscated Abdallah Abu Rahma’s laptop. The raid was already the second within few months.

During a skype interview on 25 January 2017, Abdallah Abu Rahma confirmed that soldiers had been targeting him ever since his arrest in May 2016, quoting an incident from 7 January 2017. On this day, a protest was held in Ezbet Attabeb near Qalqelya against the opening of a new road for settlers, for which 1000 Olive trees had been uprooted. An Israeli officer, who is regularly serving in Bil’In, recognized Abdallah Abu Rahma. A camera was brought to the scene and the border police read Abdallah Abu Rahma his rights. Other participants were given 5 minutes to leave the scene, but direct orders were given to arrest Abdallah Abu Rahma in a clear act of discrimination. Realizing that this was an attempt to charge him with participation in an illegal demonstration, Abdallah Abu Rahma escaped from the scene. On his flight, he fell 3 meters deep in a ditch and seriously injured his back.

The next hearings concerning Abdallah Abu Rahma’s arrest in May 2016 have been scheduled for 21 February, 12 March, and 13 May 2017.

 

Conclusion

The undersigned believe that Abdallah Abu Rahma is unfairly targeted for his human rights activities in a clear contravention of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 21 and 22 of the ICCPR. The reprisals against Abdallah Abu Rahma are not only systematic and continued, they are also part of a deliberate strategy to deter him and others from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the illegal occupation and confiscation of their land.

The undersigned therefore call on you to

  • Remind the Israeli authorities of their obligation under international law to protect human rights defenders and to this end
  • Urge the Israeli authorities to immediately end of their systematic reprisals and harassment of Abdallah Abu Rahma and his family, as well as other human rights defenders
  • Demand from the Israeli authorities to clear Abdallah Abu Rahma from vexatious charges and allegations
  • In view of the urgency of the situation and the worrying escalation of the reprisals against HRDs in the OPT in general and Abdallah Abu Rahma in particular, we would further be grateful if you could issue a public statement mentioning his case.

We thank you very much in advance for your consideration of this matter.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of further assistance.

Abdallah Abu Rahma has agreed for his name to be mentioned in a communication/ statement by the UN.

Best regards

      

Scales for Justice

CAPJPO-Europalestine 

Albertville Jourdain Vallée Solidaritè