The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defender and Palestinian legislator Khalida Jarrar who has been detained by Israeli military occupation forces since April 2. CIHRS expresses concern over Jarrar’s health condition as she suffers from multiple ischemic infarctions and hypercholesterolemia and requires constant medical supervision.
A last minute hearing, previously postponed, took place on April 29 in Ofer Military Court to determine if Jarrar will continue to be detained throughout her trial. The last minute nature of the hearing was an attempt to undermine Jarrar’s legal team’s capacity to provide her with appropriate legal counsel. A second hearing to challenge the administrative detention order issued against her on April 5 will take place next Wednesday, May 6.
CIHRS believes that the arrest of Jarrar, and the charges against her, are directly linked to her human rights work, particularly on the issue of Palestinian political prisoners, as well as her political affiliation. Other than her role as a Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member, Jarrar was recently appointed as a member of the Palestinian national committee to follow up on the ICC accession. As a human rights defender, Jarrar has advocated for Palestinian political prisoners for many years. She is also the previous general director and current deputy chairperson for the board of directors of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.
The indictment list issued against Jarrar on April 15 is composed of 12 charges, which, according to her legal team at Addameer, are related to Jarrar’s rights and political work. On April 2, at approximately 1 a.m., a large number of heavily armed Israeli soldiers raided Jarrar’s house and arrested her. The soldiers caused terror and locked her husband in a separate room. Jarrar was then moved to an Israeli settlement, then to two military bases for lengthy interrogations, before being transferred to a prison facility outside the occupied territory. This is not the first time Israel has targeted Jarrar: she has been the subject of constant harassment through travel bans and movement restriction orders issued by the military authorities.
In parallel to her pre-trial detention, and three days following her arrest, the military authorities also issued an administrative detention order against Jarrar. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights particularly addressed Jarrar’s case, expressing concern over the “increasing use” of administrative detention by Israel.
International Humanitarian Law only allows administrative detention in situations where “imperative security reasons” so require (Art.78 IV GC). The wide scale practice of administrative detention by Israel as the occupying force is considered a very serious violation of IHL and IHRL standards. The UN Committee on Torture in the Concluding Observation for the review of the State of Israel’s report in 2009 considered this practice as a violation of the prohibition of acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Administrative detention is also considered to be a form of arbitrary detention, as it does not satisfy the international norms of a fair trial.
Currently over 400 Palestinian prisoners are under the administrative detention system; in February 2015 this number included 9 PLC members, according to numbers provided by local NGOs. The list also stretches to include active civil society members who the Israeli military authorities wish to keep behind bars. Since 1967, the military authorities have issued more than 50, 000 administrative detention orders, 24,000 (nearly half) of them were between 2000 and 2014.
The arrest of PM Jarrar calls attention to the core procedural abuses of due process and the right to fair trial by Israel’s military courts system, which gravely violates international law regarding access to justice. Every year, thousands of proceedings against civilians continue to take place in this system; turning military arrests and trials into an effective tool in the hands of the occupation to repress any active civil society struggling for dignity and human rights. These arrests and trials are taking place in the complete absence of the obligation of good faith imposed on Israel as an Occupying Power in maintaining law and order, and exceed the jurisdictional limits of military courts imposed by international law. Between 1967 and 2013 more than 800, 000 Palestinians have been detained under Israeli military orders in the occupied Palestinian territory. This number constitutes approximately 20 percent of the total Palestinian population in the OPT, including almost 40 percent of the total male Palestinian population. The previous number also includes about 10, 000 women jailed since 1967, as well as 8,000 Palestinian children arrested since 2000.
CIHRS recalls Israel’s obligation under international law to end its practice of administrative detention against Palestinians in the occupied territory. CIHRS also notes that that the arrest of Jarrar is a violation of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, and of association. Detaining legislators is part of the systemic violation of the Palestinian right to exercise self-determination as it denies them the right to freely choose their political representation.
CIHRS calls on the international community to undertake serious steps to demand Israel’s release of Jarrar, and to enhance their efforts toward ending Israel’s policies and practices of arbitrary detention against the Palestinian people under its military occupation. CIHRS firmly believes that the cause of political prisoners is inextricably linked to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, human rights, and dignity.
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