We stand with all Human Rights Defenders on their nonviolent struggle on the International Day for Human Rights Defenders

Photo: LAZAR SIMEONOV

Photo: LAZAR SIMEONOV

NOVACT stands with all Human Rights Defenders on their nonviolent struggle

On the International Day for Human Rights Defenders NOVACT appeal the International Community to protect HRD all over the world and confirm our solidarity with Salah Khawaja and the other Palestinian political prisoners

“He was killed because he did not say anything,” Khawaja explains. “He did not tell them anything, not even his name. Now, when I am arrested, and the Israelis punish me, I remember him.”

Khawaja, was arrested at 2am on 26 October 2016 from his home by Israeli occupying forces and in the space of 15 days Khawaja has been interrogated 27 times under possible ill-treatment and torture. Since then he is still in prison, without charges, and waiting for the next hearing the December 11st.

Salah Khawaja is one of the hundreds Human Rights Defenders arrested, interrogated and tortured in Palestine for the sole reason of being a nonviolent activist against the occupation (member of BNC secretariat, political party National Initiative, coordination committee of Stop the Wall and leader of the Popular Struggle Committee of Nilin).

In fact, by his nature, it is hard to tag or define Khawaja under an only and isolated package. What he is and does is struggling and campaigning for human rights in occupied Palestine. He is constantly working and striving to secure a future devoid of occupation. Salah is an activist at heart and he will remain so until Palestinians will achieve freedom and seeing accountable the violations of their rights.

Unfortunately, Salah’s case is not isolated. More than two dozen unarmed Palestinians have been killed in nonviolent demonstrations since the beginning of the nonviolent popular resistance movement back in 2003. Hundreds of them have been arrested during these years under “security-based” reasons, used as justification to punish any critical voice to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The disproportionate use of violence is not the only strategy of repression that the Government of Israel uses against the popular nonviolent resistance movement: the arrests have proven to be a very effective measure and to have a strong deterrent effect among the population. Israel carries out a policy of arbitrary arrests and detentions that far from being an isolated practice but a policy of the military authorities of the Government of Israel.

Many of the arrests carried out are made under the Military Order 101: Prohibition of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda, promulgated in 1967. This military order prohibits Palestinians participation in any assembly or protest. It is considered to be participating in an assembly or a protest when a group of ten or more people gathered in a group whose purpose is to reflect political or jointly on policy. Given that Palestinian families are usually quite numerous, a family drinking tea after dinner and talking about politics may be breaking the law and facing up to 10 years in prison.

Therefore, defending human rights is an arduous and courageous task, which has also turned out on a highly risky profession. According to Frontline Defenders, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, 158 Human Rights Defenders (HRD) were killed or died in detention in 25 countries during 2015. Excessive coercive legal measures have been taken in order to restrict several fundamental freedoms across the globe. Countries such as Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Egypt or Spain have recently passed laws that threaten the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, inherently connected to the right of defending human rights.

In a context of state of emergency (that Israel is in since its declaration of independence) and of military occupation, it is a common Israeli practice to interrogate and detain Palestinians without charge, outside of the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) and prevent lawyers from visiting their clients. These practices are in violation of International Human Rights Law (UDHR art. 9, ICCPR art. 15, 16, 18), International Humanitarian Law (IV Geneva Convention, sec III) and the European Charter of Human Rights forbidding arbitrary detention, illegitimate deprivation of freedom and freedom of movement and destruction of property. Arbitrary detention is forbidden if it is pursued by an occupying power against civilians of the occupied territories without having carried out any violent attack against the occupier. Conditions in Israeli prisons have been repeatedly been found in violation human rights for the use of ill-treatment and torture. Israel has received since 2001, almost 1000 complaints of torture without ever opening any criminal investigation.

The arrest should be viewed in a wider context of persistent and increasing Israeli repression against Palestinian human rights defenders and activists who, like Al Khawaja, have been successful in their lobbying efforts, at home and abroad, against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, Israel’s continuation of land confiscation and the illegal construction of the Annexation Wall. This year a sharp increase in repression, including arbitrary detentions and use of live ammunition, took place side by side with the demolitions and forced eviction policy.

In fact, during the last two years 2015 and 2016 we have seen a concerning increased on the level of violence in Israel and Palestine. Repression by the Israeli to protests has been in many cases excessive, resorting in many cases to extreme and unlawful measures. The use of lethal force against peaceful protestors have been denounced by human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, who had documented at least 4 cases of unlawful killings. In the meantime, the presence and violence of settler population increase in the Palestinian territory.

It is within this context of violence, rights violation and impunity where the role of Human Rights Defenders as peace builders has become of utmost importance. Hence, supporting and protecting Human Rights Defenders it is more necessary than ever in order to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

From our office in Palestine as well as from our head quarters in Barcelona and offices in Madrid, Morocco or Tunisia; we stand with all Human Rights Defenders around the world, on their struggle and their willing to achieve a real justice.