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Ongoing threats and harassment against Imad Abu Shamsiyya

Status: 
Threatened
About the situation

Human rights defender Imad Abu Shamsiyya is at risk of reprisals following the conviction of an Israeli soldier, who was filmed by Imad shooting and killing a neutralised and defenseless suspected Palestinian attacker in Hebron.

Imad and his family continue to receive threats and harassment over his role in documenting crimes committed by Israeli occupying forces. On 26 August 2016, Imad received a message in Hebrew on his Facebook account, which included the logo of Israeli extremist right wing movement Kach, a picture of the human rights defender and the statement, “It is the time to be killed. You are a source of danger for the settlers of Tel-Rumeida”. Furthermore, a video in Hebrew was also circulated on the Internet, accusing Imad and his family of being terrorists and agents for “suspicious” organisations like B'Tselem.

About Imad Abu Shamsiyya

Imad Abu ShamsiyyaImad Abu Shamsiyya is a long-standing activist in Palestine and volunteer at B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, where he is involved in documenting the occupation of Tel-Rumeida. He is also the founder of the Human Rights Defenders Group, a non-partisan group that aims to document and expose violations of international law and injustice against families in areas of conflict under Israeli occupation.

10 January 2017
Imad Abu Shamsiyya and family at risk of reprisals after Israeli court convicts soldier of manslaughter

Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned about the safety of human rights defender Mr Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family following an Israeli Military Court decision on 4 January 2017 convicting Israeli soldier, Elor Azaria, of manslaughter after he had shot and killed a wounded Palestinian man, Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif, in the head as he lay still on the ground in the Old City of Hebron.

Imad Abu Shamsiyya, who happened to be close by when the aforementioned incident took place, filmed the killing of Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif as part of his work as a human rights defender, which involves documenting Israeli violations of human rights in Hebron. The video, which can be seen here, went viral and was significant in the conviction of Elor Azaria, but the significance of this video has put Imad Abu Shamsiyya, his family, and several other human rights defenders in Hebron at risk.

On 8 January 2017, an Israeli solider was caught on film searching and harassing Imad Abu Shamsiyya’s son, Awni Abu Shamsiyya, as he was walking home in the Old City of Hebron. The video of the search, which can be seen here, depicts an Israeli soldier aggressively patting down the 17-year-old for no reason. Another video, which can be seen here, shows young Israeli settlers on 7 January 2017 hovering outside of Imad Abu Shamsiyya’s home and insulting him and his family members after the settlers had thrown stones at their house.

Settlers in the Old City of Hebron are known to be more radical and violent, engaging in systematic and organised violence against Palestinians since the 1990s. The presence of settlers in occupied territory is considered illegal under Article 49 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV which provides that “[t]he Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”  Regardless, the Old City of Hebron is a place wherein more than 1,500 soldiers are deployed with a mission to serve 600 Israeli settlers situated unlawfully amongst 6,500 Palestinians. It is with that in mind that human rights defender Imad Abu Shamsiyya fears that he and his family will now face increased danger following the guilty verdict of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria whose killing of Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif was largely supported by the Israeli settler community in Hebron and elsewhere in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Imad Abu Shamsiyya’s fears increased after Israeli ministers – including Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev and Education Minister Naftali Bennett – called for the soldier to be pardoned immediately following the conviction.

Imad Abu Shamsiyya has continued his work as a human rights defender in Hebron leading non-violent groups and documenting violations of human rights despite escalated attacks after the filming of Elor Azaria. On 26 August 2016, for example, the human rights defender received a death threat in the form of a message in Hebrew on his Facebook account, which included the logo of the Israeli extremist right wing movement Kach, a picture of the human rights defender and the statement, “It is the time to be killed. You are a source of danger for the settlers of Tel-Rumeida”. Furthermore, a video in Hebrew was also circulated on the Internet, accusing Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family of being terrorists and agents for “suspicious” organisations like B'Tselem – an Israeli human rights organisation. A photo of Imad Abu Shamsiyya was also circulated with the word “wanted” written above his head and the statement, “Dear Jews, this is the number of Imad Abu Shamsiyya. This dog took the video of the soldier killing the attacker. We should all bombard him with telephone calls and explain to him how much we "love him"”. It is worthy to note that since September 2015, the human rights defender and his son are subjected to travel restrictions.
 
The human rights defender fears that threats and attacks against him, his family and other human rights defenders in Hebron will escalate if impunity prevails for settlers and Israeli military soldiers. A report issued in 2013 by Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq explains that impunity of settlers is institutionalised as part of the Israeli legal system. Another report issued by in May 2016 by B’Tselem explains that “[t]he current military law enforcement system does not allow for justice to be done, because in effect, it absolves those responsible for the commission of offenses – policy makers, MAG Corps officers, those who issue the commands and the soldiers themselves – of accountability for harm to Palestinians and unlawful acts. All this system can supply is a semblance of justice.”

Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned that human rights defender Mr Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family are at an increased risk of reprisals from Israeli settler groups and soldiers, and that their lives might be at risk solely as a result of the legitimate and peaceful work of the human rights defender.

Front Line Defenders urges the Israeli authorities to:

1. Immediately take all necessary measures to ensure the physical and psychological security of human rights defender Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family;

2. Launch a full and impartial investigation into the threats made against Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
 

1 September 2016
Ongoing threats and harassment against human rights defender Imad Abu Shamsiyya

Human rights defender Mr Imad Abu Shamsiyya continues to receive threats and harassment over his role in documenting crimes committed by Israeli occupying forces.

Download the Urgent Appeal (PDF)

On 26 August 2016, the human rights defender received a message in Hebrew on his Facebook account, which included the logo of Israeli extremist right wing movement Kach, a picture of the human rights defender and the statement, “It is the time to be killed. You are a source of danger for the settlers of Tel-Rumeida”. Furthermore, a video in Hebrew was also circulated on the Internet, accusing Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family of being terrorists and agents for “suspicious” organisations like B'Tselem. The video blamed Abu Shamsiyya for the detention and trial of Elor Azaria, the Israeli solider who killed a Palestinian that was wounded in March 2016 in Tel Rumeida. This incident was widely covered by the media thanks to video footage shot by Imad Abu Shamsiyya.    

On 28 August the human rights defender went to the police, to lodge a complaint regarding the death threats he had received, but he was prevented from filing the complaint. The police officers told him to return the next day, but on 29 August - after he waited for several hours - the officers told him that the person who could help him was away. On 30 August Imad went to the police station for the third time. After waiting for hours outside the building, a police officer approached him and told him to leave, threatening him with arrest.

The human rights defender has repeatedly received death threats after uploading this video to the Internet since March 2016. These threats have included an anonymous call, in which the caller stated: “We will burn you just like we burned the Dawabshehs”, a family who were killed in an arson attack in July 2015. Pictures and printed t-shirts of Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family, calling for their murder, have also reportedly been circulating throughout Israeli settlements in Hebron. The human rights defender reported these incidents to the Israeli police but no actions have been taken yet to protect him and his family. 

Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family have been subjected to repeated harassment as a result of his human rights activism, including physical attacks, raids on their family home, and repeated arrests. In September 2015, the human rights defender and his son were subjected to travel restrictions. In May 2015, Imad Abu Shamsiyya's family home was subjected to an attempted arson attack by settlers in the middle of the night. In March 2015, a group of soldiers invaded his family home, searched the house and confiscated the family's computer hard disk and a memory card containing footage filmed by B'Tselem volunteers.

Front Line Defenders expresses grave concern about the threats and violence against Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family and the repeated acts of harassment and intimidation against him, which it believes to be directly motivated by his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities to:

1. Immediately take all necessary measures to ensure the physical and psychological security of human rights defender Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family;

2. Launch a full and impartial investigation into the threats made against Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

31 March 2016
Death threats against human rights defender Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family

On 25 March 2016, Israeli soldiers attempted to storm the house of human rights defender Mr Imad Abu Shamsiyya in Hebron, and insulted him and his family. The human rights defender and his family have been receiving death threats since 24 March 2016, when Imad Abu Shamsiyya published a video recording of the killing of a wounded Palestinian man by Israeli soldiers on Shuhada Street in Hebron.

Download the Urgent Appeal (PDF)

On 24 March 2016, Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his wife, Ms Fayza Ayoub Abu Shamsiyya, who is also an activist with the Human Rights Defenders Group, were in Tel Rumeida when they heard gunfire coming from Shudada Street. They rushed to the scene to record what was happening on video. A group of Israeli soldiers were at the scene, helping a wounded Israeli soldier into an ambulance. Two injured Palestinian men were also lying on the road. One of the soldiers then pointed his rifle at one of the injured men, Mr Abdul Fatah Yusri al-Sharif, who was still moving, and shot him in the head, killing him.

Having captured the incident on film, Imad Abu Shamsiyya uploaded the video to the Internet. It subsequently received worldwide coverage and he and his family have been receiving death threats, allegedly from Israeli soldiers, since. These threats have included an anonymous call, in which the caller stated: ‘we will burn you just like we burned the Dawabshehs’, a family who were killed in an arson attack in July 2015. Pictures and printed t-shirts of Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family, calling for their murder, have also reportedly been circulating throughout the Israeli settlements in Hebron.

Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family have been subjected to repeated harassment as a result of his human rights activism, including physical attacks, raids on their family home, and repeated arrests. In September 2015, the human rights defender and his son were subjected to travel restrictions after being invited to talk about their family life and the importance the documentation work of the Human Rights Defenders Group on television. In May 2015, Imad Abu Shamsiyya's family home was subjected to an attempted arson attack by settlers in the middle of the night. In March 2015, a group of soldiers invaded his family home, searched the house and confiscated the family's computer hard disk and a memory card containing footage filmed by  B'Tselem volunteers.

Front Line Defenders expresses grave concern about the threats against Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family and the repeated acts of harassment and intimidation against him, which it believes to be directly motivated by their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to:

1. Immediately take all necessary measures to ensure the physical and psychological security of human rights defender Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family;

2. Launch a full and impartial investigation into the threats made against Imad Abu Shamsiyya and his family, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.