AL-HAQ PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
22 May 2006
23 May 2006 marks a grim anniversary for Al-Haq field worker Ziyad Hmeidan. On this day last year Ziyad was arrested and has since been held without formal charges or access to a fair trial. Despite the combined efforts of local and international human rights organizations, Ziyad remains in detention. As of this date, Ziyad has had his detention extended three times, raising serious concern as to when Ziyad will be released and allowed to resume his life with his family and his work defending human rights.
Ziyad, married and father of two small children, was arrested on 23 May 2005 while crossing through the Qalandiya checkpoint located south of Ramallah. Since his arrest, Ziyad's detention has been marred by flagrant violations of his fundamental rights under international law. Initially, he was moved between detention centres, denied access to Al-Haq's lawyers, and court dates were shifted without warning, preventing Al-Haq and other observers from attending the proceedings.
Ziyad has since been allowed legal counsel; however, international observers have consistently been barred from attending the proceedings. In addition, Al-Haq's repeated requests to be informed of the reasons for his arrest and detention, and the charges against him, have gone unanswered by the Israeli authorities and have yet to be clarified by the Military Courts that have reviewed his case. Al-Haq will raise an appeal with the Israeli Supreme Court in an attempt to secure Ziyad's long overdue release.
Israeli authorities have stated that they consider Ziyad a threat to national security. Ziyad works in the Monitoring and Documentation Department of Al-Haq, tenured legal human rights NGO, collecting first-hand evidence and documentation of ongoing violations of human rights in the Bethlehem area. In order to ensure the accuracy of the evidence collected, it is imperative that he speak with a wide variety of people, including victims and eye-witnesses of human rights abuses, some of whom the Israeli authorities may consider security threats. It appears that Ziyad is being punished for working as a human rights defender.
Ziyad's situation is not unique. According to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners support and human rights organization, an estimated 700 Palestinians are currently administratively detained in Israeli prisons. Ziyad's case exemplifies Israel's widespread and sustained policy of detaining individuals based on "secret evidence" that is not made available to the detainee or the lawyer. This government policy denies Palestinian detainees any meaningful protection and is in violation of their rights under international human rights and humanitarian law. Specifically, the UN Human Rights Committee made it clear that a state party may not depart from the requirement of effective judicial review of detention. At a minimum, this requires that the detainee be informed of the reasons for detention. Israel has failed to meet this minimum standard.
Ziyad's case has been adopted by such respected international human rights organizations as Amnesty International, the World Organisation Against Torture, the International Federation for Human Rights, the International Commission of Jurists, and Front Line: The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Moreover, it has been raised by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, Hina Jilani. In spite of this overwhelming support and united outcry against injustice, Ziyad remains in detention.