Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2003 - Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Situation in Israel

Conscientious objectors tackled by military justice

Trial of Jonathan Ben Artzi29

On 17th February 2003, the Israeli Defence Forces decided to bring Mr. Jonathan Ben Artzi, a pacifist student, before a Court-Martial, for refusing to serve in the army. He has consequently been detained since 8th August 2002 in military prison n° 4 and had already been imprisoned on seven consecutive occasions on the same grounds (196 days in all) following a decision by the military authorities. On 19th February 2003, Mr. Ben Artzi was sent to "open detention" in a military camp at Tel Hashomer, in the North of Israel (persons held in "open detention" live in conditions of restricted freedom in a military camp).

The first hearing of his trial took place before the court-martial of Jaffa on 11th March 2003. For the first time since the 1970s, the trial of a conscientious objector was being held before a Court-Martial. The hearing was adjourned, the defence lawyers claiming that, according to international law, a person may not be sentenced twice for the same crime (principle of non bis in idem). At the hearing on 13th April the Court reject the lawyers' objection, without giving any further details.

At the same time, the Supreme Court was called upon to comment on the possible referral of the case to a civil court. The defence, also speaking on behalf of other conscientious objectors, had in fact already effected a recourse, arguing that persons refusing to serve in the army could not be sued for disobedience of a military order. On 8th April, the Observatory appointed an observer to the hearing. The Supreme Court, which handed down its verdict on 15th April, rejected this request, on the grounds that there was no real difference between the proceedings in civil and military courts.

After several hearings during which the sister of Mr. Ben Artzi and the former president of the "military conscience" Committee appeared as witnesses, a final hearing took place on 8th October in the presence of a representative of the Observatory. Mr. Ben Artzi spoke for several hours explaining the reasons for his refusal to serve in the army.30

On 12th November 2003, the Military Court in Jaffa handed down its verdict and recognised Mr. Ben Artzi as a pacifist. Nevertheless the Court recognised him guilty of "insubordination" and recommended to the Ministry of Defence to ensure that he be heard once again by the "Committee of military conscience" which must decide in the final analysis on his exemption.

On 8th January 2004, the Minister accepted this recommendation. Jonathan Ben Artzi was set free the same day and remains free until the hearing before the committee of "military conscience".

Trial of five other conscientious objectors31

Five further conscientious objectors, Haggai Matar, held in detention since 23rd October 2002, and Matan Kaminer, Shimri Zameret, Adam Maor, Noam Bahat, in detention since December 2002, were brought to trial before the Military Court of Jaffa on 15th April 2003 for having refused to do their military service.

Although not opposed to doing military service stricto sensu, these latter refused to serve in an "occupying force" and called into question the actions undertaken by the Israeli army in the Palestinian Territories; for this reason they are considered to be "selective objectors". They are among the 300 signatories of the letter of "High School Seniors" sent to the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in January 2002, explaining their refusal to support the occupation of Palestinian Territories.

On 8th April 2003, at the end of a hearing where the Observatory sent an observer, the Court ordered that they be freed until 19th April when they would have to return to prison. However, they remained in "open detention" throughout their trial.

On 2nd May 2003, the Observatory contacted the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and informed it of the situation of Jonathan Ben Artzi, Matan Kaminer, Adam Maor, Noam Bahat.32 On 16th December, they were recognised guilty of "insubordination"...

On 4th January 2004, the Court sentenced Mr Matar, Kaminer, Zameret, Maor and Bahat to one year imprisonment for "insubordination" and recommended that the Army re-examine their exemption at the end of their sentence. They were taken to military prison n° 6, near Haifa.

On 15th January 2004, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published its decision according to which the repeated deprivation of freedom of Jonathan Ben Artzi, Matan Kaminer, Adam Maor and Noam Bahat was contrary to article 14.7 of the International Pact on civil and political rights of 1966 which states that "no-one can be pursued or punished for an offence of which he has already been acquitted or for which he has already been sentenced.

Enquiry against the Adalah association33

On 23rd August 2002, the organisation Adalah – "Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel" (NGO registered in 1996) – received a letter from the Register of Associations sercices at the Ministry of Interior, confirming that an official enquiry was being initiated on the association's activities. The launch of this enquiry see Mrs. to be linked to Adalah's activities, which, through its legal activities, denounces violations of civil, political, economic and social rights of Arab citizens in Israel. Adalah lodged an appeal against this decision on 5th December 2002. In May 2003, legal counsel submitted a list of 25 questions in the context of the enquiry.

As of end 2003, the appeal procedure is still under way.

Torture and detention of Mr. Daoud Dirawi34

On 21st February 2003, Mr. Daoud Dirawi, lawyer and co-ordinator of the juvenile justice programme in Defence for Children International/Section Palestine (DCI/PS), was stopped by Israeli soldiers for an ID check. He was taken to the police station at Qehle near Bab al Khaleel, where he spent 24 hours and then appeared before a magistrate. The following morning, his wife was informed that he had been taken to an unnamed place by the Israeli secret service (Shabak) for questioning which lasted 12 days (according to Israeli law, a prisoner may be detained for 12 days without being charged before being brought before a military judge).

On 24th February, a lawyer was able to visit him in the military prison at Asyun. According to his account, during his transfer to prison Mr. Dirawi was severely beaten up by soldiers who threw him to the ground kicking and punching him with their fists and the but of their rifles, leaving Mr. Dirawi with multiple bruises and a broken jaw. On arrival at the prison in Asyun, on 22nd February at 1.30 a.m., Mr. Dirawi got his wrists tied up, hold above his head (a form of torture known as shabah). He was left like that for 11 hours outside in the snow. The soldiers clearly stepped up their treatment of him when they learned that he was a human rights activist.

On 3rd March, the military authorities ordered that Mr. Dirawi be held in administrative detention for six months – no account was taken of the 12 days preventive detention – on the grounds that he constituted a "threat to security in the zone" and that he was in particular suspected of meting a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (FPLP). On 1st September, he was informed that the administrative detention order was being renewed for a further six months.

On 15th October, he was brought before the Military Court in Ofer. The judge had asked the director of public prosecutions that he be brought before a military court – in which case the administrative detention could be annulled – or to close the case before the military court and to pursue the administrative detention. In his decision of 4th December, the DPP pronounced in favour of maintaining administrative detention and of trial before a military court, so that he could be judged on his student activities dating back to 1995-96. A hearing was set for 8th February 2004.

Daoud Dirawi had been arrested in September 2001 and sentenced to six months preventive detention for belonging to an illegal association (the FPLP). This charge was made in the context of his student activities in 1995 and 1996 when active member of the Student's Workers Front (SWF), considered by the Israeli authorities s being linked to the FPLP. He was set free in March 2002.

As of end 2003, Mr. Dirawi is detained the prison at Ketziot, in the Negev Desert. The enquiry mission mandated by the Observatory in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories (17th to 23rd November) was unable to obtain permission to visit Mr. Dirawi.

Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Human Rights NGOs accused of supporting terrorism35

On 21st May 2003, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Silvan Shalom, declared that "most human rights offices in the West bank and the Gaza Strip are shelters for Palestinian terrorists". These comments which constitute a genuine threat for activists, come on top of the restrictions to which they are subjected regarding freedom of movement and has consequences for their security in particular.

Obstacles to the freedom of action of Israeli and Palestinian NGOs36

Israeli and Palestinian NGOs carrying out activities in the field, observe violations of human and humanitarian rights committed in the Occupied Territories, denounce these violations or even give support to the local population; in so doing, they encounter many obstacles, set by the Israeli authorities, essentially relating to obstacles to freedom of movement in the Occupied Territories. In fact for 26 months, they have imposed a closing-off of the Gaza Strip at all frontier points with Egypt and Israel. Moreover they have increased the restrictions to freedom of movement even with the Gaza Strip by repeatedly closing military barriers, forbidding Palestinians from travelling from one town to another, even making it impossible to move around within certain zones under curfew. Access to victims and witnesses is made all the more difficult in that, following an Israeli military attach, access to the theatre of operations is blocked off to organisations wishing to carry out certain investigations.

On account of these obstacles, Israeli NGOs, such as B'Tselem, are sometimes obliged to have recourse to local employees who develop activities in their own zone, within the Territories. Palestinians have considerable difficulties in moving around within the Territories, which hampers them not only when they are collecting information but also is an obstacle for many lawyers, who are regularly prevented from seeing their clients and from going to Israeli and Palestinian Courts to defend them. This is the case of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), or Al-Haq organisation.

These obstacles also have serious consequences for medical and humanitarian assistance. Accordingly, members of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), based in Tel Aviv, have been refused access to the Gaza Strip for three years and are regularly refused entry to the West Bank, in areas A and B,37 when each Saturday they attempt to set up "mobile clinics" in Palestinian villages. They are only permitted to work in zone C, under Israeli military occupation.

Similarly, the Palestinian Red Crescent is hampered by these restrictions, in particularly, ambulances and other vehicles for medical and humanitarian assistance are not allowed to circulate freely between the towns of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These obstacles have far-reaching consequences for the humanitarian and sanitary situation in the Occupied Territories, resulting in lack of vaccines for children, female or infant mortality at birth, or patients dying in ambulances in particular at the long queues at check-points.

Lastly, these restrictions have specific consequences for Palestinian activists prevented from travelling abroad, such as Mr. Raji Sourani, director of the PCHR and FIDH vice-President, who, on many occasions, has been prevented from travelling abroad to participate in international fora. In particular, in early November 2003, Mr. Sourani was prevented from going to Tel Aviv for a meeting at the US Embassy and was unable to go to Paris to attend the FIDH International Bureau. On 15th October 2003, Mr. Hassan Barghouthi, Director General of Democracy and Workers' Rights Centre Society in Palestine (DWRCP), was unable to travel to Brussels for an international conference, having been detained for seven hours at the border with Jordan; he was requested to present himself at the Israeli security services in Ramallah on 21st October. Young activists are also suffering from the restrictions imposed on young Palestinians, and are prevented from leaving the Territories on the grounds that they belong to the range of population most likely to commit suicide bomb attacks in Israel. Thus, a member of the PCHR was prevented from travelling to Strasbourg where he was due to attend a training session at the International Institute of Human Rights in June/July 2003, on the grounds that he was under the age of 35.

These obstacles increase even more the isolation of Palestinian human rights activists. In this way, they are prevented from reporting on the human rights situation in the Territories, prevented from exchanging ideas and from undertaking lobbying at international fora.

Lastly, these controls are followed up with confiscation of equipment as was the case in January 2003, when DWRCP representatives were arrested and interrogated and then had their equipment and publication confiscated at the Qalandia check-point (between Jerusalem and Ramallah) for "reasons of security" when in fact they are on their way to attend the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. The reports were handed back to the organisation one month later.

Members of NGOs have also have to face violent action such as was the case in November 2003, while a delegation from Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) was gathering information on the destruction of several hundred olive trees in Ein Abus and Isawiya (West Bank) it was attacked by colonists, some of them armed with clubs and with their faces

hidden. Mr. John Ross, journalist, Rabbi Arik Ascherman and M. David Nir, activist, were beaten; another activist, M. Dalya Bones, was threatened.

Restrictions on foreign human rights activists and humanitarian personnel38

Restrictions on freedom of circulation in the Gaza Strip

On 9th May 2003, the Israeli authorities decided to increase restrictions on foreigners entering the Gaza Strip by requiring that their entry be conditioned by the signature of a declaration discharging the Israeli authorities of all responsibility in case these foreigners "are killed, injured or victim of theft of property in the context of a military operation". This document furthermore foresees that "all foreign persons must not in any way hamper the actions of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF)".

The same day, representatives of Amnesty International were banned access to Gaza after having refused to sign this declaration.

The Gaza Strip was subsequently closed and is still inaccessible to foreigners, excepting diplomats and emergency humanitarian workers who have been strictly selected.

These measures considerably restrict the freedom of circulation of human rights and humanitarian workers, pacifist activists, journalists and are aimed at reducing the possibility of any observation of the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Attack on the offices of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)

On 9th May 2003, Israeli forces launched an attack on the offices of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in Beit Sahour, West Bank, by sending a lorry and 15 vehicles. The soldiers took away laptop computers and the organisation's files. Moreover, Mrs. Miranda Sissons, from Human Rights Watch (HRW) was arrested while making a routine visit to ISM, threatened with expulsion, and interrogated by the immigration services of the Israeli Ministry of Interior. She was released without having been informed of the charges being brought against her.

ISM, which was set up in 2001, has sent dozens of foreign volunteer workers to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in an attempt to give nonviolent protection to Palestinian civilians against Israeli military action.

International pacifists being targeted39

On 16th March 2003, Mrs. Rachel Corrie, pacifist and US citizen, member of International Protection for Palestinians (GIPP) / ISM was killed in Rafah (South of the Gaza Strip) by an Israeli army bulldozer, while she was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian house.

On 11th April, Mr. Tom Hurndall, member of ISM and UK citizen, was seriously injured by a sniper who shot him in the head while he was trying to shelter children from Israeli gunfire. He died on 13th January 2004 in a London hospital after having been in a coma for nine months. The Israeli Defence Forces have decided to pursue the soldier suspected of having fired at Hurndall. According to the Israeli authorities in London, the soldier could be charged and sent for trial.

On 5th April, Mr. Brian Avery, member of ISM and US citizen, was seriously injured in Jenin, when he was caught in Israeli army gunfire.

On 26th December, Mr. Gil Na'amati, an Israeli pacifist, was very seriously injured in the leg by an Israeli soldier while he was demonstrating against the separation wall in the village of Maskha, in the Western part of the West Bank. The bullet severed the femoral artery, Mr. Gil Na'amati had to receive a blood transfusion and did not finally have to have his leg amputated.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

29. See Press Release, 12th March, 16th April and 21st December 2003 and Report of Legal Observation Mission Israel – Conscientious objection tackled by military justice, December 2003.

30. Report of the Observatory Israel: conscientious objectors facing military justice; the trial of Ben Artzi, December 2003.

31. See Press Releases, 16th April 2003 and 5th January 2004.

32. In a previous recommendation, the Working Group (E/CN.4/2001/14, chap. IV, sect. B), indicated that "justice should not be used in such a way as to make the objector go against his or her convictions".

33. See Annual Report 2002.

34. See Urgent Appeal ISR 001/0303/OBS 010.

35. See Press Release, 27th May 2003.

36. Preliminary conclusions of the international enquiry mission mandated by the Observatory, jointly with OMCT and Forefront (17th to 23rd November 2003).

37. Zone A: placed under Palestinian autonomy. Zone B: mixed zone-Palestinian civil sovereignty and Israeli security.

38. See Press Release, 12th and 27th May 2003.

39. See Press Release, 27th May 2003.


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