As of June 2012, Al-Haq has been documenting several cases of Palestinian civilians arbitrarily detained by Palestinian Intelligence, tried before military courts and not released either after the Palestinian High Court of Justice ordered their release, or after having served their sentences. In the last two weeks, Al-Haq found that four Palestinians, who are victims of these illegal practices, began a hunger strike in protest against their detention.
In the past five years, Al-Haq, along with other Palestinian human rights organisations and foreign diplomatic representatives, pressured the Palestinian Authority to put an end to such illegal practices. As a result of these efforts, on 16 January 2011, the Head of the Legal Division of the Palestinian Intelligence, Mr. Fawaz, stated that no civilians were to be tried before military courts and no military arrest warrants were to be issued against Palestinian civilians. Nonetheless, the Palestinian Intelligence and the Military Attorney General have consistently disregarded this decision and continued to arrest, detain and try civilians before military courts.
‘Uthman Muhammad Qawasmi
On 1 September 2010, the Palestinian Intelligence arrested ‘Uthman Muhammad Qawasmi, a 22 year-old university student, who was referred to the Military Attorney General for further investigation into his alleged affiliation to illegal militias and actions against the Palestinian Authority, pertaining to Articles 180 and 178 of the Palestinian Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979.
‘Uthman’s family brought the case before the Palestinian High Court of Justice, which, on 28 November 2010, stated that the Military Attorney General did not have the jurisdiction to investigate and detain Palestinian civilians, and subsequently ordered ‘Uthman’s immediate release. Regardless of this decision, the Palestinian Military Attorney General continued to detain ‘Uthman and brought him before a military court, on 8 May 2011, where the military judge sentenced him to eight months of detention. At that time, ‘Uthman had already spent eight months in prison; however, the court’s decision was not ratified by the Palestinian Chief of Military Justice, who ordered another military court to examine the case again.
Following the Chief of Military Justice’s decision, ‘Uthman was transferred to the Palestinian Intelligence prison in Jericho. On 21 July 2011, he was brought before a different military court that sentenced him to a one-year detention. The court’s decision was ratified by the Chief of Military Justice immediately and ‘Uthman had one month and eight days left of his sentence. ‘Uthman was not released, although he had already served his sentence. According to Muhammad ‘Abd-al-Qader Qawasmi, ‘Uthman’s father, during March, his son and three other prisoners Muhammad Hussein Abu Hadid, Muhammad Barakat al-Atrash and Mu’tasem Taysir al-Natshah, who were facing the same situation, began a hunger strike to protest against their arbitrary detention. The Palestinian Intelligence in Jericho promised to release them within one week if they stop the hunger strike; despite they broke their strike, the Intelligence did not free them. Afterwards, the four prisoners were transferred to Bethlehem Intelligence where they are still currently detained.
‘Uthman’s father recalls that he was often denied visits to his son. Additionally, ‘Uthman suffered from torture during his arrest. Having no alternative legal avenues to put an end to their illegal detention, on 20 June 2012, ‘Uthman and the other three Palestinian prisoners started a new hunger strike which is still ongoing. (Affidavit No. 7521/2012 and 7522/2012)