Mr. Ehud Olmert, acting Prime Minister of Israel
Office of the Prime Minister
3 Kaplan Street, PO Box 187
Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem
Fax: +972- 2-651 2631
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
21 February 2006
Open letter to Mr. Ehud Olmert, acting Prime Minister of Israel
Re: the administrative detention of two fieldworkers of EMHRN member organisations, Al-Haq and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) would like to express its concern about the continued administrative detention of the fieldworkers of two of its member organisations, Palestinian Al-Haq (Ramallah) and Israeli Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (Jerusalem). EMHRN is concerned that the administrative detention of these persons by Israeli authorities, like arrests of employees of other human rights organisations. will have a negative effect on the ability of human rights organisations to carry out their work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
PCATI field researcher, Hassan Mustafa Hassan Zaga, a resident of Nablus, was arrested on 11 January 2006 while attempting to cross a military checkpoint between Nablus and Tul Karem in the OPT. He was detained at the Hawarah military detention facility near Nablus for approximately one month and then transferred to the Ketziot Detention Center.
Mr. Zaga is 30 years old and has been married for two years. He is also employed by the Palestinian organisation “Ansar Asajeen”, that provides legal aid to Palestinian detainees and prisoners.
On January 17, the Israeli Military Regional Commander issued a six-month order of administrative detention against Mr. Zaga on grounds of “endangering the security of the region”.
On 24 January 2006, the Israeli Military Courtconducted its first hearing concerning the administrative detention of Hassan Zaga. Prior to this hearing the army responded to the demand made by PCATI‘s Legal Director, Attorney Eliahu Abram, to reveal the specific grounds for Mr. Zaga‘s detention. In a letter dated 23.1.06, the Israeli military prosecutor responsible for administrative detention, Sion Marvecik, stated that Mr. Zaga is in administrative detention "due to his being a Hamas activist involved in the organizational and funding activities of the Hamas‘ various activities in the city of Nablus and its surroundings". Mr. Zaga denied this charge and speculated that his work on behalf of Palestinian prisoners could be at the bottom of the claim of "funding" activities.
Israeli Military Courtconducted its first hearing concerning the administrative detention of Hassan Zaga. Prior to this hearing the army responded to the demand made by PCATI‘s Legal Director, Attorney Eliahu Abram, to reveal the specific grounds for Mr. Zaga‘s detention. In a letter dated 23.1.06, the Israeli military prosecutor responsible for administrative detention, Sion Marvecik, stated that Mr. Zaga is in administrative detention "due to his being a Hamas activist involved in the organizational and funding activities of the Hamas‘ various activities in the city of Nablus and its surroundings". Mr. Zaga denied this charge and speculated that his work on behalf of Palestinian prisoners could be at the bottom of the claim of "funding" activities.
At a hearing held on 31 January 2006, part of which was held behind closed doors, PCATI’s Legal Director, Attorney Eliahu Abram, stated that, after his release from prison in 2002, Mr. Zaga chose a new path in life. He was married and studies at a university. Attorney Abram argued that Mr. Zaga’s activities on behalf of prisoners must not be confused with identification with the causes they espouse.
On 2 February 2006, Judge Adrian Agasi of the Ofer Military upheld the decision to place Mr. Zaga in administrative but reduced the period of detention to four months, stating however that this is not a "genuine reduction" in his detention period The Court based its decision on classified material submitted by the General Security Services (GSS), and reviewed by the court behind closed doors.
Al Haq fieldworker, Mr. Ziyad Hmeidan was detained by Israeli military authorities on 23 May 2005 at a checkpoint between Ramallah and East Jerusalem. On 16 June 2005, Mr. Hmeidan was placed by Israeli military authorities without charges in administrative detention for six months. To justify his detention, these authorities have maintained that, based on available secret evidence, he poses a “real threat to Israeli security. As with all administrative detention cases, almost all evidence presented to the court has been classified which the military judge reserved the right not to disclose. Therefore, at no point in the proceedings was Mr. Hmeidan or his legal counsel informed of the charges against the defendant, or the reasons for his arrest.
Initially scheduled to end on 23 November 2005, Ziyad Hmeidan’s administrative detention was renewed on 14 November 2005, when he received a letter extending his detention for another six months.
On 8 December 2005, the extension of Mr. Hmeidan’s detention was reviewed by a military judge. Although the extension of his administrative detention period was reduced from six months to four months, i.e. until 21 March 2006, Israeli authorities reiterated the fact that this is by no means intended to serve as a "genuine reduction" in his detention period. More alarming is the fact that the secret evidence described as coming from a "trusted" source was not disclosed to Mr. Hmeidan or his lawyer, thereby violating the rights of the defense and leaving the door wide open for extending his detention once again in March 2006 when the current order is due to expire.
An individual held in administrative detention is denied his civil and political rights to due process: the authorities do not charge the detainee nor do they intend to bring him/her to trial. Orders of administrative detention are for a maximum of six months at a given time but are renewable and there is no time limit to the cumulative period of detention. Furthermore, administrative detention is a violation of international human rights and humanitarian legal standards that are binding on Israel — most notably the right to a fair trial.
EMHRN takes the opportunity to note with great concern the harsh impact that this policy has on the efforts of Palestinian and Israeli human rights organisations and their staff to address ongoing human rights violations in the OPT.
In view of this, the EMHRN demands that the Israeli authorities:
· Immediately grant Mr. Zaga and Mr. Hmeidan their fundamental right to fair trial, including the right to view the evidence submitted against them or release them without delay
· Unconditionally release all Palestinian administrative detainees held on account of their non-violent activities or political opinions, and release all other detainees unless they are to be charged with a recognisable criminal offence and tried in a proper court of law in accordance with internationally accepted standards of fair trial,
· Put an end to acts of harassment, intimidation, threats, and deliberate attacks on human rights defenders in the OPT, and to respect its human rights commitments according to international human rights legal standards and treaties, most notably the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (of 9 December 1998) and the Barcelona Declaration to which Israel is a state signatory.
For additional details on the two fieldworkers’ cases, please consult the web sites of PCATI (www.stoptorture.org.il see “press releases”) and Al-Haq (www.alhaq.org see “updates”).
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network
- Mr. Tzipi Livni, Minister of Justice, Fax: + 972 2 628 7757; + 972 2 628 8618
- Mr. Menahem Mazuz, Attorney General, Fax: + 972 2 627 4481; + 972 2 628 5438; +972 2 530 3367
- Mr. Yair Lotstein, Legal Advisor to the Israeli Army in the West Bank, Fax: +972 2 997 7326
- European Commission
- The EU Austrian Presidency
- EU Member States