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The Arrest of Political Leaders

Monday, 15 August 2011 11:48
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forcible-transfer15 June 2011
Ref. No.: 219/2011

The issue of arbitrary arrest, detention, and expulsion of Palestinian officials in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) continues to infringe upon the human rights of Palestinians.

Since the beginning of 2006, 49 Palestinian political leaders have been arrested, most receiving prison sentences of over three years.1 In the aftermath of the Palestinian Legislative elections of January 2006, three newly elected Palestinian Legislative Council members fell victim to such violations.2 All three were arrested on charges of membership in the party and of having an official position in the Change and Reform Bloc. One member, Muhammad Hasan Abu-Teir, had his Israeli-issued-ID revoked and was forcibly transferred from East Jerusalem to Ramallah on 8 December 2010.

Recent arrests include, on 5 May, the detention of Fatah leader Hussam Khader, who is now serving six months of administrative detention on unknown charges. In total, five Palestinian political leaders have been detained since the beginning of May 2011.3

The trend continued this week when Israeli forces arrested two officials in the cities of Jenin and Nablus. When predicated on political affiliation, these arbitrary arrests contribute to the denial of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and violate other provisions of international law.

The facts

Israeli forces arrest member of the Palestinian Legislative Council

On 7 June, 73-year-old representative of the Change and Reform Bloc Ahmad ‘Ali Ahmad was arrested from his home in Nablus by Israeli forces. Ahmad was taken from his home at approximately 1:30 am that morning. The Israeli forces had removed the lock on the front door of the house, which left the door mildly damaged. In a related operation Israeli forces broke into and ransacked the Nablus offices of the Change and Reform Bloc.4 (See Al-Haq Affidavit No. 6400 / 2011).

Israeli forces arrest former Hamas Minister

On 9 June, 52-year-old Wasfi ‘Izzat Mustafa, formerly the Minister of Prisoners Affairs in the Palestinian Government and a member of Hamas, was arrested from his home in the al-Iskan neighborhood of the West Bank city of Jenin. Israeli forces arrived at his house at around 12:30 am to arrest him for a fourth time. Since then, Wasfi has been held in detention on unknown charges at the Megiddo prison, north of Jenin, outside the OPT (See Al-Haq Affidavit No. 6399/2011).

Wasfi previously spent three years in administrative detention before his appointment to the Ministry. After entering the government, he was arrested again on two separate occasions and detained for a total of three years.

The law

These arrests are examples of a long trend of political arrests, detentions, and forcible transfers of Palestinians by Israeli forces in the OPT.

In many cases these measures present Palestinian officials with the choice of either abandoning their representative capacity or facing punishment from Israeli authorities, including being deprived of their residency rights. This policy violates their basic rights on a number of levels:·  

  • The freedom from arbitrary arrest is established under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,which is reflective of customary law, and also reaffirmed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;·
  • While administrative detention is permitted under the Fourth Geneva Convention, its application is restricted to very limited cases and is not to be employed for political, retributive, or disciplinary reasons;·        Under Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, protected persons accused of offences have to be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein;·
  • The Palestinian people are vested with the right to self-determination under customary international law.

Action

  • The Israeli forces must comply with the standards of international law and stop the policy of arbitrary arrests, detentions, and deportation of Palestinian political representatives;·
  • Third State parties must uphold their obligation to ensure respect of the Geneva Conventions (as per Common Article 1 Geneva Conventions); pressure Israel to halt such illegal policies against Palestinians; and·
  • UN Human Rights bodies, including Special Procedures, presented with these cases must follow up with Israeli authorities in order to put an end to these violations.

  1. Statistics obtained from Adameer, Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association 15 June 2011.
  2. Al-Haq ‘Forcible Transfer of Jerusalem Parliamentarians Demonstrates an Escalation of Israeli Measures to Transfer Palestinians from Occupied East Jerusalem’ 17 June 2010.
  3. Ma’an News Agency ‘Detention campaign continues to target political leaders’ 14 June 2011.
  4. Middle East Monitor ‘Israeli forces ransack Nablus offices of the Change and Reform Bloc’ 8 June 2011.

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