[The following report was published by Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association on 7 January 2014]
Courageous Voices, Fragile Freedoms: Israel`s Arrest and Detention of Palestinian Human Rights Defenders
This report will examine the increasing use of arrest and detention by the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) of Palestinian human rights activists taking part in protests and other peaceful acts of resistance against the illegal Annexation Wall and settlements in the West Bank since 2009. Although the popular resistance that arose in response to the continuing construction of the Annexation Wall has been facing acts of repression and often violence from Israeli forces since regular demonstrations and international advocacy initiatives gained momentum in 2005, this report will show that in 2009 there was a shift in tactics by the IOF that should be viewed in the context of increasing recognition of the legitimacy of the actions by the Palestinian human rights activists. In 2009, demands by Palestinian civil society to end the regime of occupation through actions such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and to take part in regular demonstrations and other acts of civil disobedience against the Wall and settlements were gaining considerable ground both internationally and locally. These acts of resistance will be examined further in Section 1 of this report.
Also since 2009, a number of Palestinian activists have been recognized as human rights defenders by the United Nations and the European Union. The EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, adopted in 2004, were built on the 1999 UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, most commonly referred to as the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The Declaration deﬁnes human rights defenders as individuals who play an important role in furthering the cause of human rights through activities such as the documentation of violations, providing support and assistance to victims seeking remedies, combating cultures of impunity and mainstreaming human rights culture and information on an international and domestic level.
The EU Guidelines calls on EU member states to take appropriate action in relation to violations against human rights defenders, including those that occur in third party states. This includes raising individual cases of concern in political dialogues between the EU and third party states, and facilitating the use of UN Special Procedures aimed at holding to account those responsible for violations against human rights defenders.
Addameer’s ﬁndings in this report suggest that it is precisely because of this international recognition of, and support for, the actions of the Palestinian activists that Israel has responded with the increasing use of military regulations, which allows it to continue its campaign of repression behind the veneer of legal authorization. Since 2009, this has resulted in the arrest of at least four prominent human rights defenders on charges related to incitement, organizing illegal demonstrations, and other more excessive and unjustiﬁable charges aimed at criminalizing the legitimate activities of these activists. All four of these human rights defenders—two from the village of Bil’in and two from Nabi Saleh—have been convicted and sentenced to a year or more in prison as punishment for their acts of peaceful resistance. Other protest organizers have also been arrested but have either been released without charge or trial, had the charges against them eventually dropped, or have been acquitted of all charges. All these cases will be discussed more fully in the ensuing chapters.
[To read the full report click here]