Palestine: Salah Hammouri urges International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s crimes in Jerusalem

Abbas Momani / AFP

In new submission to the Court, Salah Hammouri details years of persecution and new tactics to forcibly transfer Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem.

16 May 2022, Jerusalem/New York/Paris — A recently reimprisoned Palestinian lawyer and activist is urging the International Criminal Court (ICC) to bring urgency to its investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity by Israeli officials, particularly the forcible transfer and expulsion of Palestinians from East Jerusalem. In a new submission to the ICC, Salah Hammouri recounts years of harassment and abuse by the Israeli government for his activism, detailing new tactics that include the stripping of his residency from East Jerusalem, forced separation from his wife and children, and now imprisonment with the threat of deportation.

“Today, I stand at the most difficult crossroads of my life, from injury to exile, detention without charge, and more," said Salah Hammouri.

"The occupation doesn’t stop at killing, detaining, and displacing us. It persecutes our dreams and assassinates them. The uncertainty of where I may end up, once I am freed, is a tornado of thoughts chasing me daily. It affects my morale, and my psychological state is like being on a roller coaster."

Salah Hammouri, Palestinian lawyer and activist

On 7 March, Israeli forces raided Mr Hammouri’s home and took him into custody, placing him in “administrative detention,” by which the Israeli government holds people without charging them. His detention came one day after he published a piece in Jacobin magazine describing his mistreatment by Israeli authorities since he was a teenager and the October 2021 revocation of his residency for so-called “breach of allegiance” to Israel, the occupying power. His administrative detention has been extended for three months, which could be renewed repeatedly, as has been Israel’s practice.

Mr Hammouri’s submission, filed on his behalf by lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), adds to a growing body of evidence for ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan to weigh as he considers bringing charges against Israeli officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Khan’s predecessor, Fatou Bensouda, opened an investigation in March 2021 into crimes committed on the territory of the State of Palestine after a preliminary examination of nearly five years.

The submission places Mr Hammouri’s case in the larger context of crimes committed daily, as part of the settler-colonial enterprise, against Palestinians in East Jerusalem, which is where he was born and where he is fighting to remain. These include forced evictions, house demolitions, restrictions on movements, family separation, and arbitrary arrests and violence by both Israeli forces and settlers.

“We urge Prosecutor Khan to prioritise the investigation of crimes committed against Palestinians and move swiftly toward bringing arrest warrants in concrete cases, including for crimes committed in occupied East Jerusalem and the case of Salah Hammouri,” said Katherine Gallagher, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights who has previously made a submission to the ICC on behalf of Palestinian victims of persecution. “The cost of delay, and with it, continued impunity, is being paid daily – in the loss of Palestinian lives and the denial of Palestinian safety and freedom.”

The ICC investigation covers crimes allegedly committed in Palestine – the Gaza Strip and West Bank including East Jerusalem – since June 13, 2014. Among these are Israel’s home demolitions and forced transfer of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah and other neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem; crimes of apartheid, persecution, and war crimes arising out of Israel’s denial of fundamental rights to Palestinians and its settlement enterprise; and crimes committed by Israel during its military assaults on Gaza in 2014 and 2020 as part of its 14-year closure of the area.

Mr Hammouri works as a lawyer for Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, which supports Palestinian political prisoners held in both Israeli and Palestinian facilities. He joined the ongoing boycott of military courts by the 530 Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli prisons.

“Salah’s case establishes a dangerous precedent for the Israeli Occupation’s escalation of residency revocation and administrative detention. The prolonged persecution Salah faces is a war crime and a crime against humanity under the Rome statute of the ICC,” said Sahar Francis, the General Director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. "It is imperative that the ICC, other international bodies, and States immediately intervene and demand Israel, as an occupying power, release Salah and reverse its decision to revoke his residency.”

In 2021, it was revealed that Mr Hammouri was among the Palestinian human rights defenders whose phone had been infected with Pegasus spyware. He has jointly filed a criminal complaint in Paris against the Israeli company NSO for illegally surveilling him through Pegasus.

"It is urgent that those responsible for the persecution of Salah Hammouri and other Palestinian human rights defenders, including the Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO, be held accountable."

Alice Mogwe, FIDH president

“While we hope French courts will act on Salah Hammouri’s case, we urge the ICC Prosecutor to take active and concrete investigative steps in order to break the cycle of impunity for perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Palestine, including East Jerusalem,” concluded Alice Mogwe.

Although Mr Hammouri has been arrested and imprisoned several times, the first time when he was just 16, he has never had a trial. In 2016, when his wife was pregnant, the Israeli government deported her to France, and neither she nor their two children have been able to visit Palestine since. Even prior to his latest imprisonment, Mr Hammouri was effectively prevented from traveling to see his family, as he would risk not being allowed to return to Palestine. He is challenging in court the revocation of his residency in East Jerusalem under the 2018 “breach of allegiance” law, which has forced him to remain in the village of Kafr ‘Aqab under threat of deportation.

“I am with you today, and with your efforts,” added Mr Hammouri. “I hope my dream of continued living, free, in my homeland won’t be killed.”

On 2 January 2015, the State of Palestine acceded to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and, on 1 April 2015, Palestine became the 123rd Member State of the ICC. Palestine granted the ICC jurisdiction over crimes committed on the territory of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, or by Palestinians since 13 June 2014.

Read today’s submission and visit the Center for Constitutional Rights case page.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at www.ccrjustice.org. Follow the Center for Constitutional Rights on social media: Center for Constitutional Rights on Facebook, @theCCR on Twitter, and ccrjustice on Instagram.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is a global federation with 192 member organisations that defends all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural – as contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1922 in the aftermath of the First World War — the first international NGO dedicated to the defence of human rights — FIDH investigates and documents human rights violations and advocates for states to adopt policies that respect human rights. FIDH fights impunity, works to protect victims from powerful actors such as States, the primary guarantors of human rights, but also armed opposition groups and multinationals, and acts for the freedom of action of human rights defenders and the defence of the universality of rights. Visit www.fidh.org and follow FIDH on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or TikTok.

Read more