Posts Tagged ‘military courts’

Palestinian human rights defender Amro Issa convicted for speaking out

January 7, 2021

On Wednesday morning 6 January 2021 an Israeli military court convicted Palestinian Human Rights Defender Issa Amro for peacefully protesting and civil disobedience. The Israeli military judge announced the verdict in a hearing attended by representatives of British, European, EU and Canadian consulates. Amnesty International issued a statement calling to drop all the “politically motivated” charges.

Today Israel announced that Palestinians are not allowed to peacefully protest the Israeli occupation without a permit from the occupier,” Amro stated. “This conviction is the military system against the Palestinian nonviolent resistance. It aims to suppress my voice and end all activism against the Israeli occupation.” Amro’s Israeli lawyer Gaby Lasky added that “The military court is just an organ of occupation. The [indictment for nonviolent protest] is an example of how the courts are used in order to deter the important voices of human rights defenders.”

Amro is a founder of the Youth Against Settlements group in Hebron, which organises non-violent activism against the illegal Israeli settlements in Hebron and the discriminatory restrictions placed on Palestinians by the Israeli authorities in the city. Amro first appeared in an Israeli military court in 2016 on 18 charges, ranging from “insulting a soldier” to “participating in a march without a permit”. Some of the charges dated back to 2010.

The indictment, first presented in 2016, included 18 charges related to Amro’s community organizing deemed “baseless,” “politically motivated” or “physically impossible” by Amnesty. The military judge convicted Amro on six counts: three counts of “participating in a rally without a permit,” two counts of “obstructing a soldier,” and one count of “assault.” These surround Amro’s participation in the peaceful “Open Shuhada Street” demonstration in 2016; Amro’s participation in the nonviolent “I Have a Dream” demonstration from 2013 in which participants wore masks of Obama and Martin Luther King; one count of obstruction relates to a nonviolent sit-in protest in 2012 calling to re-open the old Hebron municipality building; one count of “assault” by “shoving someone” related to a previously-closed case from 2010, an incident for which the indictment had included an obstruction charge (acquitted) for Amro yelling “I am being assaulted” in the Israeli police station prior to Amro being carried out to an ambulance on a stretcher.

In 2019, UN Special Rapporteurs called for Amro’s protection and expressed “concern” over the charges. In 2017[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/11/un-rapporteurs-intervene-again-for-palestinian-human-rights-defender-issa-amro/]; thirty-five U.S. House Representatives and four Senators including Bernie Sanders sent letters highlighting that some charges were not internationally recognizable offenses and that Amnesty would consider Amro a “prisoner of conscience” if convicted. Issa Amro is the co-founder and former coordinator of the Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements initiative. In 2010, he was declared “Human Rights Defender of the year in Palestine” by the UN OHCHR and he is formally recognized by the European Union. He won the One World Media Award in 2009 for his involvement in B’Tselem’s camera distribution project. He was a guest of the U.S. State Department in 2011 and has spoken at the UN Human Rights Council on numerous occasions. The sentencing is scheduled for 8 February.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/21/palestinian-human-rights-defenders-continue-to-be-persecuted/

Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said: “The Israeli authorities must end their campaign of persecution against Palestinian activist Issa Amro, who is a prominent voice against Israel’s regime of discrimination and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly in Hebron.”

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2101/S00025/israeli-military-court-convicts-un-recognized-palestinian-human-rights-defender-for-protesting-without-a-permit.htm

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/30290

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/

https://mailchi.mp/3fff66fe2a8b/military-court-convicts-human-rights-defender-issa-amro?e=51113b9c0e

AI and HRW address criminal prosecution of Emir-Usein Kuku, Ethnic Crimean Tatar Human Rights Defender and His Five Co-defendants

June 22, 2020

On 19 June 2020 Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International addressed a joint letter to Russia’s Prosecutor General

….We write to you to express our concern about the unfounded criminal prosecution and imprisonment of Emir-Usein Kuku, an ethnic Crimean Tatar human rights defender from Crimea, and his five co-defendants – Muslim Aliev, Vadim Siruk, Enver Bekirov, Arsen Dzhepparov and Refat Alimov. They were convicted and sentenced on 12 November 2019 to prison terms ranging from seven to 19 years on groundless terror-related charges. On 22 June 2020, their appeal against the decision will be considered by the Military Court of Appeals.

All six men should be immediately and unconditionally released, with their convictions and sentences quashed, and we call on you to take all necessary measures in your authority to ensure this happens. This case exemplifies the persecution of human rights defenders and other activists in Crimea.

Amnesty International considers Emir-Usein Kuku, who has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, and all his co-defendants prisoners of conscience.

The terrorism-related charges against Emir-Usein Kuku and his co-defendants stem from accusations of membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization banned as “terrorist” in the Russian Federation (Article 205.5 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), but not in Ukraine. All six have also been accused of conspiring to seize power by violent means (Article 278 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

…..

Emir-Usein Kuku is a member of the Crimean Human Rights Contact Group – a grassroots initiative created to monitor investigations into enforced disappearances in Crimea. As a human rights defender, Emir-Usein Kuku was continually harassed and threatened by the Russian authorities prior to the launch of the criminal proceedings against him, an indication that his prosecution is politically motivated and intended to stop his legitimate human rights activities.

When Emir-Usein Kuku joined the Crimean Human Rights Contact Group in October 2014, his activities soon brought him to the attention of the FSB, and according to him one of their officers unsuccessfully tried to recruit him as an informant on several occasions. The officer allegedly threatened Emir-Usein Kuku with reprisals, including criminal prosecution, for his refusal to cooperate.

On the morning of 20 April 2015, several FSB officers attacked Emir-Usein Kuku from behind while he was on his way to work, and severely beat him. They repeatedly kicked and punched him in the head, torso and kidney area. Then, in front of witnesses, they placed him in a vehicle and drove him to the local FSB headquarters where he was interrogated. He was later released without charge and they brought him back to his house.

On 11 February 2016, FSB officers arrested Emir-Usein Kuku at his house and detained him for questioning. On 12 February, Emir-Usein Kuku was charged under Article 205.5 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“membership of a terrorist organization”) and placed on remand. Kuku has been in detention since that date – over four years and four months.

On the same day, the FSB detained Muslim Aliev, as well as Vadim Siruk and Enver Bekirov, who are accused of membership of the same group. On 18 April 2016, the FSB detained Arsen Dzhepparov and Refat Alimov as part of the investigation of the same case. All six deny any involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir and the charges against them.

…… Under international fair trial norms, civilians should not be tried before military courts. We call on you to take all necessary steps to address the human rights violations suffered by Emir- Usein Kuku and his co-defendants, Muslim Aliev, Enver Bekirov, Vadim Siruk, Arsen Dzhepparov and Refat Alimov, including harassment, their transfer from Crimea to the Russian Federation in violation of the international humanitarian law, and their ultimate unsound and wrongful conviction following an unfair trial. Emir-Usein Kuku and his five co-defendants must be immediately and unconditionally released, with their convictions and sentences quashed.

Marie Struthers, Director, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office, Amnesty International

Hugh Williamson, Director, Europe and Central Asia Division, Human Rights Watch

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/06/22/joint-letter-human-rights-watch-and-amnesty-international-russias-prosecutor

Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders stand together: Mohammed Khatib and Jonathan Pollak

January 20, 2020

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak at the Tel Aviv Magistrates' Court, arrested as part of an unprecedented private suit by Israeli right-wing group Ad Kan, Jan. 15, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak at the Tel Aviv Magistrates’ Court, arrested as part of an unprecedented private suit by Israeli right-wing group Ad Kan, Jan. 15, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

I was standing in the fields of the West Bank village of Bil’in 15 years ago when my phone rang from an Israeli number. On the line, someone was speaking in a mix of broken Arabic and Hebrew. At the time the Israeli military had just begun targeting Bil’in to build the apartheid wall, and while the bulldozers had started working in the nearby village of Budrus, activists were showing up at our village too. Among the first people to come to Bil’in was the person on the phone. I’ll admit, at first I found him odd, even a bit freakish: he looked like a punk teenager, wearing strange clothes and with a wild haircut dyed with different colors. Full of energy and spirit, he walked up to us and got right down to business. “We are a group of anarchists against the wall,” he said, “and we want to support you in your struggle.”

I looked at this strange visitor from Tel Aviv, my mind at once grappling with the contradictions and the respect I felt. Who is this boy thinking he can stop the wall? He is part of the occupation! Why is he really here? From that first encounter, however, it was clear that he was passionate and willing to work tirelessly. He communicated with the people around him so easily and quickly that it didn’t take long before he earned my trust. That’s how I came to know my friend Jonathan Pollak – who is now sitting in Israeli detention because of a right-wing organization’s lawsuit targeting his activism in Palestinian villages like mine.

Jonathan has played a prominent role not only in Bil’in but in many other villages across Palestine. Every young person who has participated in West Bank demonstrations against Israel’s colonization knows him as Jonathan, the human rights defender.

On Feb. 13, 2015, I was arrested on false charges at one of our weekly demonstrations in Bil’in. The Israeli military claimed that I was participating in an illegal protest, preventing Border Police officers from carrying out their work and attacking them. The truth is that one of the officers attacked me with pepper spray for no reason, which is illegal under Israeli law; he lied and claimed that I had pushed him. He arrested me as a political punishment to cover up his own unlawful act. I have been on trial for these charges since I was arrested four years ago. My lawyer and I provided the Israeli police and the military prosecutor with video evidence to prove that the arresting officer lied, but it was ignored up until now. On Sunday, after four years, I was finally acquitted and the charges against me were dropped.

Muhammad Khatib during a weekly demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in in 2015. (Oren Ziv)

Muhammad Khatib during a weekly demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in in 2015. (Oren Ziv)

…My acquittal on Sunday was issued by an Israeli military court. This a rare privilege: according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, the rate of acquittals in the military court system is four out of every thousand. And though I was acquitted, I know that this system is inherently unjust and corrupt, built to keep us all as political prisoners. It is an oppressive regime designed solely for Palestinians: the judge is an Israeli military officer; the prosecutor is an Israeli soldier; even the translators and clerks are part of the Israeli army.

My friend Jonathan was arrested last week (and not for the first time) on charges similar to those I faced. Unlike me – and unlike Abdallah, Adeeb, and all Palestinians who are arrested for protesting – he will face judgement in an Israeli civil court, one which is supposed to protect the rights of citizens but in practice protects settlers, soldiers, and those who uphold apartheid and occupation. Because he supports our cause, I don’t expect him to find justice.

Due to of the nature of his arrest, and because he is not Palestinian, Jonathan could pay NIS 500 bail and walk out of jail. But he is a principled person. He has seen me and countless other Palestinian friends arrested on false charges, powerless to prove our innocence. So, he has decided to refuse bail and remain in detention instead. He won’t play by the rules of a system that is rigged against justice.

……Despite the many barriers that Israel has tried to place between us, we are part of the same struggle. Jonathan has stood alongside me and all Palestinians since he was a punk-looking teenager with weird clothes and crazy hair. Today, as a human rights defender and as a person of principle, I am proud to stand up and support Jonathan Pollak.

Another Egyptian journalist detained on unknown charges

December 1, 2015

Khadeega Gafar

Ismail’s wife, Khadeega Gafar, rings alarm bell [Khadeega Gafar]

Ismail Alexandrani was detained after flying back from Berlin, where he attended counter-terror summit. The Egyptian investigative journalist and human rights activist was arrested after being questioned at Hurghada International Airport, his wife said, adding that the accusations or charges against him have still not been revealed.

 

Since 2013, Egyptian authorities have cracked down on freedom of expression after the ouster of Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Angelita Baeyens, programmes director at the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organisation in Washington DC, said that Egypt’s crackdown on free speech is of “deep concern”.”Although the charges against Alexandrani, if any, and the particular circumstances of his detention have not yet been made clear,” she said, “the ongoing harassment of activists, independent journalists, and human rights defenders in Egypt remains a deep concern and raises serious questions about the country’s commitment to respecting the rights of its citizens to freedom of expression and association.”

Some members of the Muslim Brotherhood attended [the Berlin conference], but Ismail is critical of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Khadeega Gafar said “The security services know this. He’s criticised them [the Muslim Brotherhood] on social media. he is anti-Muslim Brotherhood”

A state security prosecution hearing is expected in New Cairo on Tuesday morning, added Gafar, who is in touch with human rights organisations and lawyers. “How can I express how I am feeling? I am not in a good state,” she said. “I am not in communication with him, so every piece of information comes to me with a contradiction. I have no life for now. It’s just about finding out where he is, whether he is OK, and what he is accused of.”

According to Human Rights Watch, more than 3,700 civilians have been charged in military courts since October 2014, when President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi expanded the jurisdiction of military courts for a two-year period. Many of those civilians were charged in the military courts “for acts related to protesting and [alleged affiliation with] the Muslim Brotherhood”.

Source: Award-winning Egyptian reporter held on unknown charges

Mexican human rights defenders successful: civilian courts for soldiers in the future

May 1, 2014

Human Rights Defenders do not only suffer repression but campaign to get things improved. Success is not always as widely reported as drama, so I draw your attention to the AP story (as it appeared in the Washington Post of 1 May 2014) that Mexico’s parliamentarians have unanimously agreed to change Mexico’s military justice code that will allow members of the armed forces who commit crimes against civilians to be tried in civilian courts. This is a historic change that human rights defenders have been demanding for years.

[The changes come after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in five cases filed by Mexicans who suffered abuse at the hands of soldiers. It ordered that those cases be tried in civilian courts and told Mexico to change its military code of justice.]

Mario Patron, deputy director of Mexico’s Human Rights Centre Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez, said the military code “was subjecting civilian victims to a jurisdiction that is neither independent nor impartial.” He said the reform is a clear step forward, but suggested that cases of soldiers whose human rights have been violated by other soldiers should also go to civilian court

Mexico lawmakers OK civilian courts for soldiers – The Washington Post.