Joint Addameer and “Stop the Wall” Update on the Arrest of Human Rights Defender and coordinator of the “Stop the Wall” Campaign Jamal Juma’
[Ramallah, 22 December 2009] On Monday 21 December 2009, a court hearing at the Moskobiyyeh Interrogation Center (Russian Compound) in West Jerusalem extended Jamal Juma’’s interrogation period for four days. A leading Palestinian human rights defender, Jamal Juma’ aged 47, who is the coordinator of the Grassroots “Stop the Wall Campaign” and a founding member of several Palestinian civil society networks and non-governmental organizations such as the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, has never been charged with any offenses before.
At the court hearing, Jamal’s legal counsel, attorney Fathi Shbeitah argued that the military court did not have any jurisdiction over Jamal Juma’, who as a resident of occupied East Jerusalem should appear before an Israeli civil court. In response, the interrogation police answered that they have received authority from both the Jerusalem public prosecutor’s office and the military prosecution to interrogate Jamal under the military orders. Although the military judge was not satisfied with the interrogation police’s justification, he still stated that the information provided was enough to apply military orders. Given that Jamal is prevented from access to his attorney owing to a ban on lawyers’ visits which was implemented by a court’s decision on 17 December, a day after Jamal’s arrest, Addameer and Stop the Wall are particularly alarmed by the military judge’s decision to interrogate him under the military court system. Practice shows that such decisions are always deliberately intended to extend the interrogation period to the maximum, allow the outmost flexibility for Israeli Security Agency (ISA) officers in their conduct of the interrogation and reduce legal safeguards to the absolute minimum.
Indeed, the maximum periods of detention for Palestinians detained by Israel from the initial detention until conclusion of a trial by military court are significantly longer at each stage of proceedings as compared to those prescribed for the detention of detainees under the civil court system. For example, a Palestinian can be held without charge, by order of a military judge, for an initial period of up to 90 days. This period can be extended for another period of up to 90 days by request of the Chief Area Legal Advisor for the occupied Palestinian territory, via an order from the military court of appeals. By comparison, a detainee held under the Israeli civil court system can be held without indictment for an initial period of 30 days only, which can be extended three times in 15 day increments on the authority of the Attorney General. What’s more, Palestinians tried before the military courts can be denied access to a lawyer for 90 days. Under the Israeli civil court system, such a ban is restricted to 21 days only. Finally, trials for Palestinians before the military courts must be completed within two years, while the limit for detainees before Israeli civilian courts is nine months.
According to Jamal’s legal counsel, attorney Fathi Shbeitah, the Israeli interrogation police did not provide clear allegations at the court hearing in Moskobiyyeh, but made vague accusations about Jamal’s alleged involvement in activities supporting terror and threatening the security of the state that could be considered as incitement. So far, no charges have been laid. Additionally, although Jamal was brought to court, he was prevented from speaking with Adv Shbeitah, owing to the ban on lawyers’ visits. As a result, Adv Shbeitah was unable to ensure that Jamal is detained in adequate conditions. The military judge dismissed the interrogators’ request to extend Jamal’s detention to 15 days, but he did agree to a four day extension period based on “secret information” that was made available to him by representatives of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) and consequently allowed the interrogation process to formally begin. When Adv Shbeitah questioned the ISA officers about the content of the undisclosed information and the reasons for Jamal’s detention, he received no answer.
At 9:00 pm on 15 December 2009, the Israeli police called Jamal Juma’’s family home and summoned him for interrogation. He was asked to come to Qalandia checkpoint that same night at midnight. Two and a half hours later, at 2:30 am on 16 December 2009, Jamal Juma’ was brought handcuffed to his home. In the presence of Jamal’s three young children and his wife, the army searched his home for two hours and confiscated his computer and cell phones. As the Israeli army was taking Jamal to the Moskobiyyeh Interrogation Center in West Jerusalem, one of the soldiers threatened Jamal’s wife that she would only see her husband again through a prisoners’ exchange.
CAMPAIGN TO PROTECT PALESTINIAN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Addameer and Stop the Wall contend that Jamal’s arrest should be viewed in a wider context of persistent Israeli repression against Palestinian human rights defenders and activists who, like Jamal, have been successful in their lobbying efforts, at home and abroad, against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, Israel’s continuation of land confiscation and the illegal construction of the Annexation Wall. The timing of Jamal’s arrest is also an indication of a link between his human rights work and his subsequent detention. Weeks prior to his arrest, Jamal was actively working on starting a campaign to protect human rights activists protesting against the Annexation Wall. Indeed, since July 2009, the Israeli forces have increased their arrest campaign of both human rights defenders and residents of Palestinian villages opposing the construction of the Wall. In response to organized protests and advocacy efforts, Israel has adopted a policy of arrest, detention, intimidation, threats and, at times, collective punishment. Leading Palestinian human rights activists, prominent figures, such as mayors and teachers, and members of the Popular Committees, who are instrumental in coordinating weekly protests and advocacy efforts including legal cases, are often personally targeted and arrested in an attempt to sideline them from organizing the protests, or to discredit them and their efforts. Local cameramen and photographers, as well as members of the press, are also targeted. Most recently, on 10 December 2009, Abdallah Abu Rahma, a school teacher and coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee was arrested by Israeli soldiers during a dawn raid. Importantly, youths and children as young as twelve are often the first ones to be arrested in mass arrest campaigns, either during demonstrations, immediately after them or during night raids. These arrests of the most vulnerable members of the community are intended to exert pressure on their families and the entire campaign to put an end to all advocacy efforts and social mobilization.
In recent months, Jamal has been raising all of these issues with EU representative offices to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and EU consulates in East Jerusalem in relation to the arrest and administrative detention of one of his colleagues, a youth campaigner working with the Stop the Wall campaign, Mohammad Othman, who was arrested on 22 September 2009 on his way back from an advocacy tour in Norway. Together with Addameer, Jamal suggested that EU missions implement EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders by regularly attending trials of human rights defenders, reporting on arbitrary arrests and raising specific cases under the EU-Israel political dialogue. Additionally, Jamal has been very active in advocating the rights of the Palestinian people at various United Nations conferences, and regularly participated in the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society, organized under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. He also regularly attended the World Social Forum meetings in Porto Alegre, Caracas, Nairobi and most recently in January 2009 in Belém in Brazil, where he personally met with the Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. In addition, Jamal attended the International Symposium on the “International Court of Justice and Israel’s Wall – 5 years on” in July 2009, where he spoke about the Wall and its associated, unlawful regime, in the presence of prominent human rights defenders, such as Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Occupied Territory. Through his work as the “Stop the Wall” campaign coordinator, Jamal regularly met with foreign diplomats, members of the European Parliament and government officials.
Addameer and “Stop the Wall” position
The protection of human rights defenders is not only a moral obligation, but has been recognized by the United Nations as a social, individual and collective right and responsibility. Addameer and Stop the Wall thus urge foreign government officials, including members of foreign representative offices to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and foreign Consulates in East Jerusalem, as well as representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament, human rights organizations and United Nations bodies to:
• Raise all cases of Palestinian human rights defenders arrested in relation to their advocacy work on the Wall and its associated, unlawful regime, including the cases of Jamal Juma’, Mohammad Othman and Abdallah Abu Rahma, in their official meetings with Israeli officials;
• Demand clarifications regarding the reason for the arrest of all human rights defenders protesting the construction of the Wall, including that of Jamal Juma’, in official letters addressed to Israeli authorities;
• Issue public statements condemning the arrest of all human rights defenders, including Jamal Juma’, protesting the construction of the Wall;
• Demand Jamal’s immediate release and pressure Israel to put an end to its policy of arbitrary detention.
In addition, Addameer and Stop the Wall urge representatives of EU missions to attend Jamal’s and other human rights defenders’ court hearings in accordance with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders; raise Jamal’s case under the EU-Israel political dialogue and organize a joint press conference with Palestinian human rights defenders at risk of detention.
For more information about Jamal’s arrest, as well as the detention of other Palestinian human rights defenders, directly contact:
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
Tel: +972 (0)2 296 0446 / 297 0136
Stop the Wall Campaign