The arrest of a Palestinian human rights defender today who criticized the Palestinian authorities on Facebook is a shameless attack on freedom of expression, said Amnesty International.
Issa Amro, a Hebron-based coordinator for Youth Against Settlements and a former field researcher for the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, was detained at around midday local time today by Palestinian Preventive Security
Forces, after he posted comments on his Facebook page criticizing the arrest of a local radio journalist yesterday by the same Palestinian security forces.
“It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence. Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence
that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech,” said Magdalena Mughrabi Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
The Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and their rivals, the de-facto Hamas administration in Gaza, have both tightened the noose on freedom of expression in recent months, launching a repressive clampdown on dissent that has seen journalists from opposition media outlets interrogated and detained in a bid to exert pressure on their political opponents, said Amnesty International.
In the West Bank, the Palestinian authorities have arrested six journalists in August so far, shut down 29 websites and introduced a controversial Electronic Crimes Law imposing tight controls on media freedom and banning online expression and dissent. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas security forces have arrested at least two journalists since June and hampered others from freely carrying out their work. At least 12 Palestinians, including activists, were also detained by Hamas for critical comments posted on Facebook.
Today Palestinian residents and activists in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron are holding demonstrations marking 22 years since the Israeli authorities first closed al-Shuhada Street, formerly the city’s commercial centre. They are protesting against illegal Israeli settlements and demanding the removal of the restrictions on their movement, which are applied only to Palestinians and not to Israeli settlers.
Following a surge in violence and civilians in Hebron and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank in October 2015, the Israeli military intensified the long-standing restrictions, declaring parts of Hebron’s Old City a “closed military zone” and barring access to Palestinians living elsewhere in the city, as well as human rights defenders. There has also been an escalation in attacks on human rights defenders – Palestinian, Israeli and international – by Israeli forces and settlers in and around the Old City.
Posted at 0001hrs BST 27 May 2015
Hamas forces carried out a brutal campaign of abductions, torture and unlawful killings against Palestinians accused of “collaborating” with Israel and others during Israel’s military offensive against Gaza in July and August 2014, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
‘Strangling Necks’: Abduction, torture and summary killings of Palestinians by Hamas forces during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict highlights a series of abuses, such as the extrajudicial execution of at least 23 Palestinians and the arrest and torture of dozens of others, including members and supporters of Hamas’s political rivals, Fatah.
“It is absolutely appalling that, while Israeli forces were inflicting massive death and destruction upon the people in Gaza, Hamas forces took the opportunity to ruthlessly settle scores, carrying out a series of unlawful killings and other grave abuses,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.
Palestine’s application this week to join the Geneva Conventions and key international human rights treaties is a significant advance for human rights protection, Amnesty International said today, urging it to sign up as well to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
On 2 April 2014 it was announced that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had the day before signed letters of accession to some 20 multilateral treaties.
Amnesty International believes the move should spur the Palestinian Authority into bolstering its commitment to upholding the rights of all people within areas under its control. This must mean, among other actions, conducting independent and effective investigations into all alleged violations by Palestinian Authority security forces, and prosecuting those responsible in fair trials when there is sufficient evidence.
Amnesty International has been calling on Palestine to become a state party to all relevant international human rights and international humanitarian law treaties, without reservations or declarations amounting to reservations, since it achieved UN non-member observer state status in November 2012.
Palestinian Authority must end use of excessive force in policing protests
Palestinian Authority (PA) police and security forces in the occupied West Bank must cease using unnecessary and excessive force against demonstrators, and must be held accountable when they commit human rights violations, Amnesty International said today.
A new briefing, published today details how police and security forces have repeatedly carried out unprovoked and unlawful attacks on peaceful protesters. It also accuses the PA authorities of allowing them to do so with impunity.
“Standards during the policing of demonstrations in the West Bank continue to fall woefully short of those prescribed by international law,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director of Amnesty International. “As a result, the rights to freedom of expression and assembly are being severely eroded.”
In November 2012, at least 100 Palestinian civilians and four Israeli civilians were killed after the Israeli army launched Operation “Pillar of Defence”. During the conflict that followed, unlawful attacks were carried out by both sides. Israeli forces hit over 1,500 targets throughout the Gaza Strip. Palestinian armed groups fired over 1,500 indiscriminate rockets at Israel. Three years earlier, hundreds of Palestinian civilians and three Israeli civilians were killed in the context of Operation “Cast Lead”. Neither side has taken adequate steps to ensure that anyone was held accountable for crimes under international law. Unless they do, civilians will continue to be caught in the cross-fire and pay with their lives.
Israel must release a Palestinian activist held without charge for two years, Amnesty International urged today after his administrative detention was extended for the sixth time without justification.
Ahmed Qatamesh, a 63-year-old academic who Amnesty International believes is being detained to deter political activities by other Palestinian left-wing activists, was yesterday told he will be held for at least another four months from 29 April.
"Ahmed Qatamesh is a prisoner of conscience who is being detained solely for expressing non-violent political beliefs," said Amnesty International's Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.
"His continued detention is arbitrary and he must be immediately and unconditionally released."
Ahmad Qatamesh is one of about 160 Palestinians currently held by Israel under administrative detention orders.
These allow for indefinite detention on the basis of secret evidence that the military prosecution withholds from the detainee and their lawyer, denying detainees the basic right to defend themselves.