Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2006 - Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Situation in Israel

Sentencing and release of Mr. Jonathan Ben Artzi13

On January 1, 2006, the High Military Court of Appeals acknowledged the status of pacifist of Mr. Jonathan Ben Artzi, a student, but sentenced him to four months in a military prison – two months of which could be commuted on payment of a 2,000 Israeli shekels fine (360 euros) – effective as of February 15, 2006.

On April 21, 2004, Mr. Ben Artzi had been sentenced by the Jaffa Military Court to two months' imprisonment and a 2,000 Israeli shekels fine after he refused to serve in the army. According to the verdict, a refusal to pay the fine could entail an additional two months in prison. Mr. Ben Artzi had appealed this decision before the High Military Court of Appeals.

The hearing was adjourned until July 9, 16 then 18, 2005, when the High Military Court of Appeals suggested to commute Mr. Ben Artzi's sentence to "national service under military supervision". However, Mr. Ben Artzi refused this proposal, arguing that an alternative scheme such as national service should in no way be linked to the army.

In April 2006, Mr. Ben Artzi was released after having served his sentence.

Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Arbitrary detention and release of Mr. Hassan Mustafa Hassan Zaga14

On January 11, 2006, Mr. Hassan Mustafa Hassan Zaga, a member of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and of the Palestinian organisation Ansar Al-Sajeen, which provides legal assistance to Palestinian prisoners, was arrested by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) at a checkpoint located between Nablus and Tul Karem, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He was then transferred to the Hawarah military detention centre, near Nablus. During a meeting with his lawyer, Mr. Zaga stated that IDF officers had beaten him during his arrest.

On January 17, 2006, the IDF Regional Commander issued a six-month detention order against Mr. Hassan Zaga under charges of "endangering the security of the region". In a letter dated January 23, 2006, the IDF Military Prosecutor justified this order on grounds of "[Mr. Zaga's] membership to Hamas, his international activism and the funding of various Hamas activities in the city of Nablus and its surroundings". The Prosecutor further emphasised that he was unable to make the evidence supporting these charges public.

On February 2, 2006, the Ofer Military Court confirmed Mr. Zaga's administrative detention, but reduced it to four months.

On May 22, 2006, the Ketziot Military Court upheld a new decision of the General Security Service (GSS) to extend Mr. Zaga's administrative detention for an additional four months.

On September 13, 2006, a third administrative detention order of an additional four months was issued against Mr. Hassan Zaga.

However, the Ofer Military Court decided on September 20, 2006 to reduce Mr. Zaga's administrative detention to two months, arguing that the GSS had failed to bring new evidence to legitimatise the extension order.

Mr. Zaga was released on November 5, 2006 in accordance with this decision.

Administrative detention of Mr. Ziyad Muhammad Shehadeh Hmeidan15

On March 12, 2006, the administrative detention order on the basis of which Mr. Ziyad Muhammad Shehadeh Hmeidan, a member of the Palestinian human rights NGO Al-Haq, detained without charge since May 23, 2005, was extended by the Israeli authorities for a period of four months.

On March 20, 2006, the Military Court of the Ansar III prison (Ketziot) upheld this decision, which was subsequently confirmed on appeal on May 10, 2006 by the Moscobiya Military Court. In accordance with this decision, Mr. Hmeidan should have been released on July 20, 2006.

On July 18, 2006 however, Mr. Ziyad Hmeidan received a letter informing him that his administrative detention was to be extended for a further four months. This order was confirmed by the Moscobiya Military Court on July 26, 2006.

On November 14, 2006, Mr. Hmeidan's administrative detention was extended for a sixth time, a decision upheld on appeal on the basis of "secret evidence" on November 20, 2006.

Infringements of the freedom of movement of Al-Haq members

On March 26, 2006, Mr. Shawan Jabarin, director general of Al-Haq, had his West Bank identity card confiscated by the local authorities of Beit El. This had serious consequences on his professional activities for several months. After repeated requests, his documents were returned in July 2006. Mr. Jabarin, who has been banned from leaving the West Bank since 2005 for no official reason, took the case to the Israeli High Court, which rejected his claim.

Similarly, on April 11, 2006, Mr. Yusef Qawariq, an Al-Haq volunteer, had his professional card seized at the Huwara checkpoint in Nablus, making his travels within the Occupied Territories all the more difficult. By the end of 2006, his card had still not been returned.

Furthermore, foreign volunteers working for Al-Haq were unable to obtain work permits from the Israeli authorities and were therefore compelled to leave the Occupied Palestinian Territories every three months in order to renew their tourist visas, thus running the risk of being denied entry into the Occupied Territories on each occasion.

Finally, on May 28, 2006, Ms. Maureen Murphy, an American national and an Al-Haq volunteer, was refused entrance at Ben Gourion airport, where she was in transit to the Occupied Territories. Ms. Murphy, who has been unable to return ever since, was subsequently forced to cease her activities with the organisation.

Closure of Ansar Al-Sajeen16

On September 8, 2006, the offices of Ansar Al-Sajeen in Majd El-Kurum were assaulted and shut down by the police and the Shin Bet (Israeli general security services) on the basis of an administrative order issued by the Israeli Minister of Defence declaring the organisation illegal. During the raid, the police also seized the association's assets and material, including hundreds of files, computers and telephones.

Ansar Al-Sajeen referred the case to the Ministry of Defence and requested the cancellation of the administrative order dissolving the organisation. As of the end of 2006, the Ministry had not yet responded.

Other branches of the organisation were also shut down, namely in Tirah and the West Bank.

Shortly before its closure, Ansar Al-Sajeen had launched a campaign seeking to include the cases of 1,948 Palestinian prisoners, all Israeli citizens, in the negotiations relating to an exchange of prisoners.

On the day of the police raid, Mr. Munir Mansour, president of the organisation, was interrogated for an hour and a half at his home by police and Shin Bet officers who also searched his house and seized his mobile phone.

[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.]

13. See Annual Report 2005.

14. See Urgent Appeals ISR 001/0106/OBS 007, 007.1 and 007.2.

15. See Annual Report 2005, Urgent Appeals ISR 001/0605/OBS 039.4, 039.5, 039.6 and 039.7, and Conclusions of the Observatory Judicial Observation Mission sent on July 6, 2006.

16. See Urgent Appeal ISR 002/0906/OBS 119.


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