Scales for Justice

Working towards peace and reconciliation



NGOs join forces in support of Palestinian HRD Issa Amro

Palestinian HRD Issa Amro will appear in an Israeli military court on 9 July 2017. The trial, that began in 25 September 2016, puts Issa Amro under imminent risk of imprisonment. His case stands symbolic for the widespread targeting of human rights activists, using old and exaggerated charges in a military court system whose conviction rate for Palestinians is over 99%.

In September 2016, on behalf of 30 other NGOs and individuals including the former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Prof. Dr. Richard Falk, Scales for Justice (S4J) has delivered a joint urgent appeal to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on the case. They sent a follow-up letter on 29 June 2017.

The undersigned organizations and individuals requested the High Commissioner to urge Israeli authorities to remind the Israeli authorities of their obligations under international law to protect freedom of expression and end their systematic harassment of Human Rights Defenders, send an observer from the OHCHR to the trial against Issa Amro and issue a public statement during the week leading up of the trial, to increase the pressure on Israel to grant Issa Amro a fair trial and drop the charges dredged-up against him.

Full text of the letter

Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson 52 rue des Pâquis
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland

Open letter on behalf of Palestinian HRD Issa Amro

Date: 29 June 2017

Dear Mr. High Commissioner,

We are writing to you in follow-up of a letter that we had sent to you on behalf of over 30 NGOs and individuals on 21 September 2016, in which the undersigned expressed their deepest concern about the case of Palestinian Human Rights Defender Issa Amro, who is facing a trial on 18 trumped-up charges for his peaceful human rights activities that puts him under imminent risk of imprisonment.

Several preliminary hearings have taken place since our letter, during which 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, claiming that Issa Amro’s conduct carries a potential harm to public security, which overcomes freedom of speech.  

The evidence part of the trial is now scheduled to begin on 9 July 2017. The court will begin with 9 witnesses, related to the arrests of Issa Amro and his friend Farid Al Atrash in 2016.

Issa Amro is well-known by the UN. In 2010, he became OHCHR human rights defender of the year in Palestine and has been in Geneva several times to meet with officials from the OHCHR, deliver oral statements during meetings of the Human Rights Council and hold presentations during side events.

His latest visit was in March 2017, when he held a statement during the General Debate under item 7 of the Human Rights Council. He further met with officials of the OHCHR, including a meeting on 21 March 2017 with Deputy High Commissioner Kate Gilmore, who was gravely concerned about his case and promised to bring his case to your attention. On 21 March 2017 Issa Amro also gave a press conference at the UN, in collaboration with the Palestinian Mission.

Over the past years Issa Amro’s case has been subject of government communications and UN press releases numerous times. His case was also included in the March 2017 reports of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Michael Lynk, who mentioned his case during the presentation of his report to the HRC.

Issa Amro’s case has further raised concern by international human rights organizations. In November 2016, Amnesty International warned “We believe that he is facing trial solely for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Imprisoning Issa Amro would be a travesty of justice and would silence yet another important critical voice in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

In an unprecedented letter published on 28 June 2017, 32 members of the US Congress have also called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to pressure Israel over its treatment of Issa Amro. In their letter, the congress members wrote: „We fear that Israeli military courts deliberating over Mr. Amro’s charges will not render a fair and impartial verdict […] We believe, that the persecution and imprisonment of peaceful activists only threatens the safety and human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis. As the United States seek to assist in fostering the conditions for peace negotiations between both sides, we should encourage our steadfast ally in the region to uphold our shared values by respecting the rights of activists like Issa Amro.”

The undersigned are convinced that Issa Amro’s case stands emblematic of the climate of increasing hostility by Israel towards activists, who peacefully work towards an end of the occupation, and demands your immediate attention. 

In view of the seriousness of the case, the undersigned urge you to

  • Remind the Israeli authorities of their obligations under international law to protect freedom of expression and end their systematic harassment of Human Rights Defenders
  • Use all diplomatic pressure at your disposal to urge the Israeli authorities to drop the charges against Issa Amro 
  • Send a representative to the trial against Issa Amro on 9 July 2017
  • Issue a public statement during the week leading up of the trial, to express your concern about Israel’s reprisals against HRDs and urge them to grant Issa Amro a fair trial and to drop dredged-up charges against him

We have further been requested to forward you a petition by Jewish Voice for Peace on Issa Amro’s behalf, that was signed over 20.000 times. Please find it attached.

Yours, sincerely, 

Albertville Jordain solidarité

Alliance for Jewish Progressives

Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS)

CODE PINK - Women for peace

Prof. Dr. Richard Falk - former Special Rapporteur on the oPt

International Lawyers Organization

Kurve Wustrow – Center for Training and Networking in Nonviolent Action

North Bay Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace

Scales for Justice

Note: Due to the urgency of the matter it was not possible to wait for the explicit agreement of all those signatory to the first letter, we assume however their tacit agreement


If you are a HRD and facing reprisals, send an email to info@s4j.ch