Ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Mohammad Othman - ISR 001 / 1109 / OBS 162.1

01/12/2009
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Mohammad Othman, a volunteer with the "Palestinian Grassroots Stop the Wall Campaign"[1], who has been detained since September 22, 2009 without charges or being able to know the reason for his arrest.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

According to the information received, on November 23, 2009, after 61 days of detention for the purpose of interrogation by Israeli Security Agency officers, Mr. Mohammad Othman received his first administrative detention order[2]. This came just after the Military Court of Appeals ended, on November 22, 2009, Mr. Othman’s interrogation period insofar as no measurable progress had been made during the two months he had been held in interrogation, no external evidence had been brought to the attention of the court and the military prosecution had been unable to formulate substantiated allegations or charges against him. In addition, the court had ordered Mr. Othman’s release on 10,000 NIS bail (about $2,500 USD) and with the conditions that he did not leave the West Bank and that he regularly reported to the Israeli police. Nevertheless, the Military Court gave 24 hours to the military prosecutor to issue an administrative detention order against him, and remanded Mr. Othman to detention during this period.

On November 25, 2009, the Military Court of Administrative Detainees in Ofer Military Base, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, upheld the administrative detention order against Mr. Mohammad Othman. Although the administrative detention order was set for a three-month period, the judge decided to take into account the two months that Mr. Othman has already been imprisoned for interrogation, and his administrative detention should therefore end on December 22 or 23, 2009. However, it is feared that a new administrative detention order might be issued at the end of Mr. Othman’s current sentence. Mr. Othman’s lawyer will most likely appeal against the judicial review hearing.

As of issuing this urgent appeal, Mr. Mohammad Othman remained detained in Kishon (Jalameh) interrogation centre. Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon the Israeli authorities to release Mr. Mohammad Othman immediately and unconditionally as his detention seems to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities, and therefore contravenes the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.

Background information:

On September 22, 2009, Mr. Mohammad Othman was arrested at the Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank as he was on his way back to Ramallah from an advocacy tour in Norway, during which he was engaged in a number of speaking events and meetings with Government officials.

On September 24, 2009, Mr. Othman was transferred from Huwwara provisional detention centre to Kishon (Jalameh) interrogation centre, located near Haifa in northern Israel. He was subsequently placed in solitary confinement. On September 27, 2009, Mr. Othman was interrogated for the first time. During the interrogation session, he was questioned about his friends and family. The interrogators also asked him broad questions about his work.

On September 29, 2009, the Military Court at Kishon interrogation centre extended Mr. Mohammad Othman’s detention period for ten days. On October 8, 2009, the Salem Military Court, in the northern West Bank, prolonged his detention for a further twelve days[3]. During neither of the two court hearings, the Israeli interrogation police did provide any charges against Mr. Othman, but contended that an extension of his detention period was necessary for further interrogation. The first time the military judge rejected the interrogators’ initial request to extend Mr. Othman’s detention period to twenty-three additional days, arguing that no clear allegations exist as only two short interrogation sessions had taken place during the previous eight days of his detention. The judge did agree, however, to a ten day extension period, based on "secret information" that was made available to him by representatives from the Israeli Security Agency (ISA). At the court hearing in Kishon, Mr. Othman’s lawyer questioned the ISA officers about the content of the undisclosed information and the reasons for Mohammad’s detention, but received no answer.

On October 19, 2009, the Salem Military Court extended Mr. Othman’s detention period for another eleven days and on October 27, 2009, his detention was again extended for an additional 13 days. On November 1, the appeal against the extension of his detention was denied. In addition, on the same day, a military court prosecutor decided to prohibit Mr. Othman to receive visits from his lawyer until November 15, 2009, when this ban was lifted.

On November 4, 2009, Mr. Othman was transferred from Kishon (Jalameh) interrogation centre to Ohalei Keidar prison, in Beersheba, Israel, where he was held in a so-called "collaborators’ cell", before being recently transferred back to Kishon interrogation centre.

On November 8, 2009, Mr. Othman’s interrogation period was again extended for 10 days in a court hearing at Ofer Military Court, and on November 16, 2009, his interrogation period was extended for another eight days after a court hearing at Kishon interrogation centre argued that a longer detention was needed to advance in the interrogation.

Mr. Othman was interrogated several times after his first court hearing, and at times the interrogation sessions lasted from 8:00 am until midnight. Furthermore, on several occasions he was reportedly threatened with administrative detention during his two-month long interrogation period. Mr. Othman has been repeatedly insulted and verbally assaulted during the interrogations. Mr. Othman would also been interrogated daily about his trips to Europe and contacts with European organisations, as well as on issues relating to his human rights activities as a volunteer with the "Stop the Wall Campaign". He was also asked questions about other staff members of the campaign.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Israel urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Mohammad Othman;

ii. Release Mr. Mohammad Othman immediately and unconditionally since his detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Mohammad Othman and all human rights defenders in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrances;

iv. Comply with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular Article 1, which states that "everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels" and Article 12(2), which provides that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the [...] Declaration";

v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in accordance with international human rights instruments ratified by Israel, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Addresses:

* Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, 3 Kaplan Street, PO Box 187, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91919, Israel. Fax: + 972 2 651 2631 / 02-670-5475, E-mail: rohm@pmo.gov.il, pm_eng@pmo.gov.il
* Mr. Ehud Barak, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Ministry of Defence, 37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya, Tel Aviv 61909, Israel. Fax: +972 3 691 6940, Email: minister@mod.gov.il.
* Mr. Avigdor Lieberman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 9 Yitzhak Rabin Boulevard, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91035, Israel. Fax: +972 2 628 7757 / +972 2 628 8618 / + 972-2-5303367. Email: sar@mfa.gov.il
* Mr. Yaakov Ne’eman, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, 29 Salah al-Din Street, Jerusalem 91010, Israel. Fax: + 972 2 628 7757 / + 972 2 628 8618 / + 972 2 530 3367. Email: sar@justice.gov.il / tifereth@justice.gov.il
* Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva, Avenue de la Paix 1-3, CH-1202, Geneva, Switzerland, E-mail: mission-israel@geneva.mfa.gov.il, Fax: +41 22 716 05 55
* Embassy of Israel in Brussels, 40 avenue de l’Observatoire, 1180 Uccle, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 373 56 17, Email: brussels@israel.org

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Israel in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Israel.

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