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Military trial for Issa Amro and Farid Al-Atrash continues

Status: 
Trial postponed
About the situation

On 7 April 2019, human rights defender Issa Amro attended the Israeli Military Court in Ofer, where for nearly 7 hours he answered questions regarding the 18 security-related charges pressed against him. The next hearing, for which more witnesses are to be summoned, is scheduled for 26 June 2019. The next day, on 8 April 2019, the human rights defender was arrested by Israeli police for insulting an army commander on social media by posting the conversation that took place between them. During the conversation, the military official accused Issa Amro of "making troubles". The human rights defender was later released on bail pending a court hearing due to take place on 8 April 2020.

On 28 March 2019, Issa Amro attended a Palestinian court in Hebron, following the revision of charges brought against him in 2017, all linked to his peaceful work in defence of human rights. The court adjourned the hearing to 22 May 2019 to summon witnesses. This case forms part of a pattern of judicial harassment perpetrated against human rights defender Issa Amro by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

On 7 November 2018, the Ofer Military Court completed the seventh hearing of the trial of human rights defender Issa Amro. The Court heard and cross examined five witnesses. The next hearing, potentially concluding the hearing of the prosecution's witnesses, is scheduled for 17 December 2018.

On 28 May 2018, the Israeli Ofer Military Court in the Occupied Palestinian Territories postponed the trial of Issa Amro and Farid Al-Atrash to 30 July 2018.

The evidence part of the trial of Issa Amro is scheduled to begin on 9 July 2017. On 9 July the prosecution will begin with 9 witnesses related to the arrests of Issa Amro and Farid Al Atrash in 2016. During a preliminary hearing in February 2017 the judge rejected to invalidate 14 out of the 18 charges for actions that took place 3-6 years ago, claiming that Issa Amro’s conduct carries a potential harm to public security.

On 21 December 2016, prominent human rights defenders Mr Issa Amro and Mr Farid Al-Atrash appeared before the Israeli Ofer Military Court in the Occupied Palestinian Territory after delays in their trial by Israeli authorities.

About Issa Amro

Issa AmroIssa Amro is a prominent human rights defender and founding member of many non-violent organisations in Hebron who work peacefully against Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Amongst these organisations are the Hebron branch of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the Arab Non-Violence Network, Youth Against Settlements and the Hebron Defenders.

10 April 2019
Issa Amro arrested, released on bail for posting on social media

On 7 April 2019, human rights defender Issa Amro attended the Israeli Military Court in Ofer, where for nearly 7 hours he answered questions regarding the 18 security-related charges pressed against him. The next hearing, for which more witnesses are to be summoned, is scheduled for 26 June 2019. The next day, on 8 April 2019, the human rights defender was arrested by Israeli police for insulting an army commander on social media by posting the conversation that took place between them. During the conversation, the military official accused Issa Amro of "making troubles". The human rights defender was later released on bail pending a court hearing due to take place on 8 April 2020.
 

3 April 2019
Judicial harassment of human rights defender Issa Amro

On 28 March 2019, Issa Amro attended a Palestinian court in Hebron, following the revision of charges brought against him in 2017, all linked to his peaceful work in defence of human rights. The court adjourned the hearing to 22 May 2019 to summon witnesses. This case forms part of a pattern of judicial harassment perpetrated against human rights defender Issa Amro by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

Issa Amro is the founder and coordinator of Youth Against Settlements (YAS), a group of human rights defenders that strengthens the local community’s steadfastness against the expansion of illegal settlements and documents human right violations. For local and international media, YAS is often the first source of information from the ground.

On 7 September 2017, following the publication of a Facebook post critical of Palestinian authorities, the Hebron District Court charged Issa Amro, during a closed hearing, with “disruption of public order”, “insulting the authorities”, and “inciting strife”, all considered crimes under the 2017 Electronic Crimes Law. The court also extended the human rights defender’s detention by four days, before releasing him on bail on 10 September 2017. However, Issa Amro still faced charges of “inciting sectarian strife” and “publishing material that endangers the integrity of the public order of the state” which according to Article 20 of the 2017 Electronic Crimes Law, can be punished with a 12-month prison sentence and/or a fine of between 1000 and 5000 dinars. Following the revision of the above-mentioned charges, on 28 March 2019, the Hebron District Court called the human rights defender to a hearing. In order to summon witnesses, the court adjourned the hearing to 22 May 2019.

The human rights defender reported that he has received death threats through social media, telephone, and his family members. In order to target the human rights defender, Palestinian authorities have resorted to repressive fear tactics. In February 2019, families and organisations in Hebron received messages whom they believe to be from Fatah (the Palestinian National Liberation Movement), threatening them with adverse consequences if they work with the human rights defender or his organisation. In what appears to be an act of retaliation against Issa Amro, the Palestinian authorities fired two of his colleagues, whom he had worked with at Youth Against Settlements, from their positions in the Hebron governor's office. On 28 March 2019, Youth Against Settlements decided to suspend their activities until judicial harassment against them ceases.

Issa Amro has simultaneously faced judicial harassment by Israeli authorities. On 1 April 2019, the Israeli Military Court in Ofer adjourned the court hearing of the human rights defender until summoning the witnesses which is due to happen on 7 April 2019. The hearing will concern 18 security-related charges, including assault of a public servant, participation in a march without a permit and intentional damage to property, brought against Issa Amro, all linked to his peaceful work in defence of human rights.

Front Line Defenders believes that the ongoing judicial harassment of Issa Amro by Israeli and Palestinian authorities is motivated solely by the human rights defender's peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in the OPT and Israel to:
 

1. Immediately drop all charges against Issa Amro as it is believed that they are solely motivated by his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights;

2. Guarantee that all human rights defenders in the OPT/ Israel are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment;

3. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Issa Amro as well as his family members;

4. Cease the targetting of human rights defenders in the OPT/ Israel and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.

20 December 2016
Military trial for human rights defenders Issa Amro and Farid Al-Atrash continues

UPDATE: On 28 May 2018, the Israeli Ofer Military Court in the Occupied Palestinian Territories postponed the trial of Issa Amro and Farid Al-Atrash to 30 July 2018.

On 21 December, prominent human rights defenders Mr Issa Amro and Mr Farid Al-Atrash will appear before the Israeli Ofer Military Court in the Occupied Palestinian Territory after delays in their trial by Israeli authorities. 

Issa Amro is a prominent human rights defender and founding member of many non-violent organisations in Hebron who work peacefully against Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Amongst these organisations are the Hebron branch of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the Arab Non-Violence Network, Youth against Settlements and the Hebron Defenders. Farid Al-Atrash is a Palestinian lawyer and human rights defender in Hebron. He is chairman of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in Bethlehem and part of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC), a group which engages in community-based non-violent resistance of various forms, including strikes, protests, and legal campaigns. The PSCC also supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The Committee aims to document and expose violations of international law and justice against families under Israeli occupation, and to coordinate between various villages involved in the struggles against the Wall, ethnic cleaning, settler expansion, and various aspects of Israeli Occupation.

On 21 December, Issa Amro and Farid Al-Atrash will appear before the Israeli Ofer Military Court in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Issa Amro is currently facing 18 spurious charges which were presented on 7 June 2016 and range from accusations of assault to participation in peaceful marches without obtaining a permit. In one fabricated charge, for example, Issa Amro was accused of breaking an Israeli settler's camera during a protest on 20 March 2013. However, in that particular incident, the defender had already been placed in detention at the time of the protest and could not have been responsible for breaking the camera.  Farid Al-Atrash is also facing fabricated charges, which accuse him of assaulting Israeli soldiers following his participation in a peaceful protest organised by Palestinians in Hebron on 26 February. In a statement, endorsed by several independent United Nations (UN) human rights experts, the persecution of Palestinian human rights defenders was condemned and the case of Issa Amro and Farid Al-Atrash was specifically addressed. In relation to Issa Amro’s case, the UN Special Rapporteurs noted that the trial against the human rights defender is part of a “...concerted pattern of harassment and intimidation by the Israeli authorities aimed at inhibiting his work as a human rights defender.”

Both human rights defenders last appeared before Ofer Military Court on 23 November 2016 when their trial was delayed. Several State representatives, representatives from the UN and other international NGO representatives were present at the hearing in solidarity and support of the human rights defenders.

Front Line Defenders condemns the continued judicial harassment against Issa Amro and Farid Al-Atrash and urges Israeli authorities to immediately drop all charges against them and guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.

4 March 2016
Charging and detention of human rights defenders Mr Farid Al-Atrash and Mr Issa Amro

On 1 March 2016, human rights defender Mr Farid Al-Atrash was released from detention on bail, having been detained for 5 days following peaceful protests calling for the opening of Shudada Street in Hebron. He is now facing charges of participating in an illegal demonstration and attacking soldiers. On the same date, human rights defender Mr Issa Amro was also released, having been arrested on 29 February 2016. The human rights defender faces charges of organising illegal protests. Both human rights defenders deny the accusations against them.

Issa Amro was released on 1 March 2016, having been arrested by Israeli soldiers on 29 February outside his house in Tel Rumeida while speaking to a tour group from Breaking the Silence, an organisation of veteran combatants from the Israeli military dedicated to exposing the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. He was blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to Gush Etzion prison. Once at the station, he was accused of organising an illegal protest calling for the opening of Shudada Street, which was closed down by Israeli authorities following the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre in 1994, and using social media to incite violence against Israel and the Israeli Army. He was warned to expect a summons to court upon being released the following day.

Farid Al-Atrash was released on 1 March 2016, on bail of 1,500 shekels (approximately €350). On 29 February 2016, the Ofer Israeli Military Court had ordered the extension of his detention period until 3 March 2016, at an urgent hearing requested by the Independent Commission for Human Rights. On 28 February 2016, the human rights defender had been transferred by Israeli police into the custody of the military prosecution, where he was held until his release. The charges against him are connected to a peaceful protest which took place on 26 February 2016, in the context of the annual protest to open Shuhada Street in the occupied West Bank district of Hebron, and to commemorate the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre, which occurred in late February 1994. Farid Al-Atrash was arrested by Israeli Occupation Forces during the protest, along with several other demonstrators. The protest itself was violently suppressed by Israeli forces, who directly targeted demonstrators and journalists by firing tear gas, physically assaulting them and throwing stun grenades. Farid Al-Atrash, who was holding a sign reading 'Free Free Palestine' when he was arrested, was beaten before being taken to the Jaabara police station in the Kiryat Arba’ settlement.

The peaceful march took place in Hebron to commemorate the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre, a deadly attack by an extremist Israeli settler during prayer time, which occurred in late February 1994 and resulted in the deaths of 29 people and injuries to more than 100 from live bullets. The Israeli authorities subsequently closed down the area surrounding the mosque, including Shuhada Street and the Tel Rumeida area of the Old City of Hebron in the occupied West Bank. The area has been designated as a closed military zone by the Israeli army and banned to the public, apart from Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents. Under Israeli military law, any demonstrations in the West Bank are illegal, whether non-violent or not.

1 December 2015
UN Special Rapporteurs express serious concern over human rights violations against members of YAS

In December 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, the Special Rapporteur on summary or arbitrary executions, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, published an urgent appeal where they express serious concern for the human rights violations - including arbitrary detentions, acts of intimidation, and death threats - against members of the organisation Youth Against Settlements (YAS) and its coordinator Issa Amro.

Download the UN Statement

10 February 2014
Human rights defenders attacked and detained during forcible eviction of Ein-Hijleh village

On 6 February 2014, at approximately 1:30am, Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Border Police forcibly evicted the entire Palestinian village of Ein-Hijleh and declared the village a closed military zone. During the eviction 19 people, including human rights defenders, journalists and representatives of committees and youth movements, were temporarily detained whilst at least 32 villagers were injured. Several of the 19 detained were also subject to physical aggression.

Amongst the nineteen detained were human rights defenders Messrs Issa Amro, Mahmoud Zawhara, Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, Bassem Tamimi and Mohammad Al Khatib, and human rights journalists Mss Diana Alzeer, Ashira Ramadan and Lema Nazeeh. All nineteen represent committees or youth movements from all over Palestine.

During the forced displacement on 6 February 2014, it is reported that the members of the IDF numbered in the hundreds. Diana Alzeer, Ashira Ramadan and Lema Nazeeh were amongst many subjected to aggression and force, including beatings, being pushed to the ground and pushed in the direction of fire. The human rights defenders were detained and held at the entrance of the village of Areeha, and later released once the eviction had been completed. At least 32 villagers were treated for injuries at Jericho hospital. The IDF also reportedly attacked journalists and medical teams in the village at the time of eviction, including a cameraman from Palestine TV.

The forced displacement follows a series of raids and attacks which have targeted the local community as well as human rights defenders who peacefully opposed the eviction. The campaign began on 31 January 2014, when the IDF blocked access to the village and prevented the delivery of water and food supplies. On 3 February 2014, the IDF attempted to gain entry to the village. On 4 February 2014 a renewed attempt to enter the village included the use of tear gas against peaceful protesters, but was hindered by locals forming a human chain. Several villagers, as well as Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, sustained injuries and were taken to hospital in Jericho.

16 July 2013
Arbitrary detention and reported physical assault of human rights defender Mr Issa Amro

On 8 July 2013, human rights defender Mr Issa Amro was arbitrarily detained and reportedly physically assaulted by Israeli police forces near the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron. Video evidence shows the officers ushering away Issa Amro, and his release several hours later. The human rights defender appears to be unable to walk, requiring a stretcher to transfer him to a hospital where he stayed overnight for treatment.

On the afternoon of 8 July, Issa Amro was accompanying a French TV crew in the West Bank when his ID was confiscated at a check point and was not returned. He was then taken to a nearby police station and arbitrarily detained until late in the evening.

Upon his release, he required overnight hospitalization and medical attention. While detained, the human rights defender reports being severely beaten on his hands and backbone while handcuffed, and subjected to verbal abuse after falling to the floor due to the abuse. Issa Amro returned to the police station on 9 July, and was accused of resisting arrest and insulting police. These allegations are invalidated by a video recording showing Issa Amro accompanying the police peacefully. The video can be seen here.

It is unclear at this time whether charges will be filed against Issa Amro. In April 2013 he received death threats to halt his work. He has also been subjected to a defamation campaign endorsed by the mayor of the Hebron Municipal Council and the director general of the Hebron Jewish Community.

30 April 2013
Death threats and defamation campaign against human rights defender Mr Issa Amro

On 28 April 2013, a settler in the West Bank area of Tel-Rumeida spat in the face of human rights defender Mr Issa Amro and threatened to kill him. The incident is part of an ongoing defamation and harassment campaign against the human rights defender and his family by a community of Israeli settlers. It happened in the presence of an Israeli soldier who reportedly gave incorrect testimony to the Israeli Police when they arrived on the scene, saying that Issa Amro provoked the settler and that the settler never spat in his face. On 23 April 2013, Issa Amro received an anonymous phone call during which the caller threatened to kill him if he did not halt his work.

The latest incidents are part of an ongoing campaign against Issa Amro which has included labelling the human rights defender a terrorist. On 20 March 2013, a letter from settlers to Israeli security forces accused the human rights defender of terrorism and incitement, warning that a failure of the Israeli authorities to remove him “could be costly”, and threatening “bloodshed”.

In the letter, the mayor of the Hebron Municipal Council and the director general of the Hebron Jewish Community insist that army commanders “use administrative detention until you are able to find a long-term solution to completely end this hostile and dangerous activity” referring to Issa Amro’s extensive work with various human rights groups. The full letter can be read here.

Issa Amro is particularly concerned about that letter because of the status and influence of its authors. Since the publication of the letter, several Zionist websites have issued calls for his execution, publishing various pictures of his face marked by red circles. Moreover, various websites depict the human rights defender as a terrorist.

29 January 2008
Arrest and ill-treatment of human rights defender Issa ‘Amro

Front Line is deeply concerned following reports of the arrest and ill-treatment of human rights defender Issa 'Amro on 19 January 2008. Issa ‘Amro is a field-worker with B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

Issa ‘Amro was reportedly arrested by soldiers in Hebron while filming a disturbance by settlers in Wadi Hsein, East Hebron. He was standing across the road from the disturbance with another staff member of B'Tselem and international activists when he was approached by the commander of the Shimshon battalion who ordered him to stop filming. A group of settlers surrounded Issa ‘Amro and attempted to take his camera. The settlers were then joined by soldiers who beat Issa ‘Amro before arresting him and taking him to an Army Jeep where they continued to beat him. B'Tselem was later informed that Issa ‘Amro had been arrested on suspicion of attacking soldiers, despite the fact that the organisation is reportedly in possession of video footage as evidence that Issa ‘Amro was attacked by the soldiers.

Issa 'Amro was released on 21 January 2008. A restriction order was issued against him, prohibiting him from entering the Israeli settlements for fifteen days, but on Wednesday 23 January 2008 this order was cancelled.