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Israel’s Policy of Arbitrary Arrest of Human Rights Defenders Continues

Thursday, 24 July 2008 15:03 REF.: 22.2008E
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As an organisation committed to the protection and promotion of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Al-Haq expresses its concern over the arbitrary detention of Al-Haq fieldworker, Yusuf Qawariq.

Today, 24 July 2008, at approximately 2:00 pm, Mr. Qawariq was detained by Israeli occupying forces as he was leaving the West Bank city of Nablus through Huwara checkpoint. Having identified himself to the soldiers manning the checkpoint by showing his Palestinian Identity Card, as well as his Al-Haq employee card, Mr. Qawariq was accused of having presented a false United Nations ID on account of the attribution of Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN displayed on the Al-Haq ID.

He was detained for three hours near the checkpoint in a holding cell measuring only four square metres. Bystanders who tried to approach Mr. Qawariq to check on him were pushed away by Israeli soldiers. When the mayor of Awarta village attempted to intervene, one of the soldiers argued in Arabic that Mr. Qawariq was carrying a fake UN document and, significantly, that his arrest was also due to the nature of his work as someone monitoring and documenting the actions of the Israeli military.

Regrettably, Mr. Qawariq’s case is not an isolated incident but part of a wider trend of arbitrary arrests and detention of human rights defenders in the OPT, as well as those monitoring or documenting Israeli human rights violations in any way. Indeed, as recently as the afternoon of 23 July 2008, Jamal Kana’an Amirra was arrested while observing a peaceful demonstration protesting against the construction of the Annexation Wall near the Palestinian village of Ni’lin. Mr. Amirra is still under detention at Ofar military detention centre near Ramallah. Al-Haq is deeply concerned that the reason for his arrest was not Mr. Amirra’s presence at the demonstration but rather the fact that his 14-year-old daughter had filmed an Israeli soldier, under the supervision of his commander, shooting the blind-folded and handcuffed Ashraf Abu-Rahma in the leg from point-blank range two weeks earlier. This footage was later broadcast in media outlets around the world and has prompted the Israeli military authorities to order a rare investigation into the actions of their soldiers.

Human rights defenders in the OPT have been increasingly targeted in recent years by repressive measures such as movement restrictions and administrative detention without trial. The two most recent incidents described above further illustrate Israel’s attempts to discourage individuals and organisations from documenting and highlighting the Occupying Power’s consistent violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the OPT.

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