On Saturday, French Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri will attend a confirmation hearing in Jerusalem District Court where, his colleagues at the Palestinian NGO Addameer are told, his administrative detention order will be renewed for at least three months.
Hamouri, a human rights defender and field researcher with Addameer, which supports Palestinian political prisoners, was taken from his home in a pre-dawn raid by Israeli forces on 23 August 2017. He has since been held by Israel in administrative detention, a practice in which detainees are held indefinitely without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence.
In the occupied West Bank, where only the Palestinian population is subjected to Israeli military law, Israeli Military Order 1651 permits administrative detention orders for up to six months. These orders can be renewed repeatedly.
“If there were real claims against Salah, and other human rights defenders, they would be charged rather than held under administrative detention,” says Dawoud Yusef, advocacy coordinator at Addameer.
There are two, essentially conflicting, reasons for holding Salah. There is a general targeting of human rights defenders, and of individuals holding influence in community spaces. Salah is both a human rights defender and well known and respected in the Palestinian community in Jerusalem.
Palestinian legislators, civil society organisations, lawyers, academics, journalists, activists and artists are routinely subjected to punitive measures by the Israeli government.
Addameer reports that there are 6,036 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons. Among them is Palestinian legislator and former director of Addameer Khalida Jarrar, whose administrative detention order was extended by an Israeli military court for four months on 16 June. No evidence has been presented against Jarrar, who has been imprisoned for a year without charge or trial.
“There are two conclusions that can be drawn from Salah’s case,” says Yusef. “Either governments do not, in fact, pressure the Israelis on these types of cases, despite having a distinct responsibility to do so in defence of their citizens; or that diplomatic means are powerless in the face of the will of the occupation. I tend to believe it is somewhere in the middle. Western governments are reluctant to pressure Israel with anything more than mild requests and rebukes. While they continue to provide material support, there is no reason for the Israelis to change their actions.”
During a December meeting in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to release Hamouri; though Macron has, so far, refused to meet Hamouri’s wife, Elsa Lefort. Israel has banned Lefort from entering Palestine.
This is not the first time Hamouri has had to contend with either the Israeli military detention system, or the languor of the French government. As a student, Hamouri was wrongly convicted by an Israeli military court of conspiracy to assassinate a rabbi and of membership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP). It was only six months before the end of his six years sentence that the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alain Juppé, admitted that the case against Hamouri was baseless. This was the first time a French minister spoke in Hamouri’s defence.
Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine Director, Omar Shakir, has describes Hamouri’s detention as “outrageous”. Shakir, a US citizen, was himself the subject of a crackdown on human rights groups by the Israeli government in early May, when a deportation order was issued against him. Israel’s interior minister, Aryeh Deri, accused Shakir of being active in the Nobel-nominated Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; revealing that the Israeli government had compiled an intelligence dossier on Shakir.
“International law only permits administrative detention as a temporary and exceptional measure,” says Shakir. “Israel’s locking up of hundreds of Palestinians subject to this form of internship after 50 years of occupation inverts the law, turning the exception into the norm, at the cost of the fundamental right to due process.”
Report by Sawsan Bastawy, @SawsanHefny