Israel: ill-treatment and arbitrary detention of Mr. Salah Hammouri (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Israel on 10 August 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. Regrettably, the Government did not reply within the initial 60-day period. If a reply is received it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.

Since this communication was sent, the Special Rapporteur has received further updates on MR Hammouri’s case, some of which were included in a joint Press Release published on Wednesday 19 October 2022.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication

BACKGROUND

Topic: alleged ill-treatment and arbitrary detention of Mr. Salah Hammouri. This incident is the latest in a broader series of events related to the misuse of national administrative and criminal law proceedings against the human rights defender, which is notable and deeply concerning in its persecutory nature.

Mr. Salah Hammouri is a French-Palestinian lawyer and human rights defender with dual citizenship, who works with Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 2014[1]. Before then, he was part of a student movement that advocated for the victims of human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories, and a field researcher. Mr. Hammouri was born in Jerusalem and has lived there his entire life since 1985.

We have previously raised our human rights concerns with the Government of Israel about the alleged arbitrary detention of and intention to withdraw Mr. Hammouri’s permanent residency in Jerusalem in communication AL ISR 8/2020. We continue to stress our collective objection to actions which render persons without legal status in an occupied territory a practice which is inconsistent with both the Fourth Geneva Convention’s requirement to maintain protection for protected persons without distinction, and with the human rights obligations of your Excellency’s government under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (article 2).

We also raised concerns after the official notification of the revocation of his permanent residency status in Jerusalem, in communication AL ISR 10/2021. The decision was based on withheld “secret information” citing broad and vague allegations of “terrorist activities.” It is deeply concerning that the vague and abusive language of ‘terrorism’ is being used as a chimera to seek to dislodge the well-established treaty and customary law obligations of the Government of Israel under both international humanitarian law and international human rights law (A/75/337). We also expressed our human rights concerns with the Government in communication AL ISR 10/2021 over the designation of Addameer and five other Palestinian civil society organisations as “terrorist organisations, as well as in communication AL ISR 11/2021 over the planting of the Pegasus spyware on mobile phones belonging to human rights defenders and employees of Addameer and the other five organisations. Finally, we expressed concern with the Government in OL ISR 6/2022 that the present legal and regulatory framework for designating terrorist organizations lacks precision and may result in the unlawful infringement of fundamental rights, including fair trial rights and freedom of expression, as protected under international conventions to which your Israel is a party. We regret that no reply has been received to any of these communications.

We would like to remind the Government of Israel that, in its opinion No. 34/2018, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that the arrest and detention of Mr. Hammouri amounted to arbitrary detention. The Government was urged to release Mr. Hammouri immediately in accordance with international law and start an investigation in relation to his detention and ill-treatment during the time he spent in prison.

ALLEGATIONS

On 7 March 2022, between 04:00 and 05:00 am, Israeli special unit forces from the Al-Musta’rabeen Unit broke into Mr. Hammouri’s home in northern Jerusalem, searched his apartment, and confiscated his mobile phones and laptop. Mr. Hammouri was tightly bound at the wrist with plastic zip-tie, forced to kneel facing a wall outside his home until he was transferred to a military jeep and taken to the Ofer military base in Beitounia, Ramallah. He was later moved to the al-Mascobiyya interrogation centre in Jerusalem.

On 9 March 2022, Mr. Hammouri appeared in the Ofer military court via videoconference, and the judge extended his detention for 48 hours pending an administrative detention order.

On 10 March 2022, the Israeli military commander issued a three-month administrative detention order against Mr. Hammouri based on “secret information.” Mr. Hammouri was not charged or tried.

On 13 March 2022, Mr. Hammouri was transferred to Ofer prison. He was due to be released on 6 June 2022.

On 6 June 2022, Mr. Hammouri’s legal counsel was informed hours before his expected release time that a three-month detention renewal order had been issued on 2 June 2022, without any court appearance or access to his file by his legal counsel.

On 9 June 2022, the Ofer military court confirmed the three-month detention renewal order, due to end on 5 September 2022.

Mr. Hammouri’s administrative detention is based on “secret information,” and is still subject to indefinite renewals. Along with 600 other Palestinian administrative detainees, Mr. Hammouri is boycotting the practice of administrative detention and has refused to participate in military proceedings related to his detention, and has urged his legal counsel to do the same.

On 14 July 2022, Mr. Hammouri has written an open letter to the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, calling on France to take action to end his detention and Israel’s persecution against him. Since then, Mr. Hammouri has been classified as a high-risk, dangerous prisoner (“Sagav”) and transferred to a high-security, isolation cell in Hadarim prison as a punishment. During the transfer from Ofer prison to Hadarim prison, Mr. Hammouri was allegedly subject to inhumane and degrading treatment, including having his hands and feet cuffed and both cuffs connected together, which made it extremely difficult for him to move. He was transported in a van called “Bosta”, in which he was made sit on narrow metal seats in an angled position for five and a half hours, which caused excruciating pain. The temperature of the cell inside Bosta was kept extremely cold and Mr. Hammouri was repeatedly searched in a degrading manner at every stop during the transfer. At an overnight stop in Al Ramleh prison, he was placed in a metal cage upon arrival and eventually allocated a very dirty and humid cell without ventilation to sleep in. He endured another one-hour journey in Bosta to arrive at Hadarim prison the next morning. This series of actions which constitute an escalation of ill-treatment appears to be in direct response to the public and international concern, and a form of reprisal directed at Mr. Hammouri based on his internationally protected human rights activities.

In addition to his ongoing administrative detention, Mr. Hammouri is at imminent risk of forced deportation from Jerusalem. Israel’s Minister of Interior revoked Mr. Hammouri’s permanent residency on 18 October 2021 pursuant to Amendment No. 30 to the Entry into Israel Law of 1952, based on his alleged “breach of allegiance to the State of Israel”, which is defined as a terrorist act under Counter Terrorism Law, and unsubstantiated allegations of “terrorist activities” and/or affiliation with “terrorist entities”. The residency revocation is currently being appealed.

CONCERNS

In the communication we expressed our grave concern about the renewal of administrative detention of Mr. Hammouri, held without trial or charge, and based on “secret information,” without access to his legal counsel. In this regard, allow us to highlight that the UN Human Rights Committee has most recently expressed deep concern about “…the continuing practice of administrative detention of Palestinians, including children, without charge or trial and without the guarantee of fundamental legal safeguards, as in the case of human rights defender Salah Hammou[r]i”, and urged Israel to “…immediately put an end to the widespread practice of arbitrary arrest and detention, including administrative detention, of Palestinians”. (CCPR/C/ISR/CO/5, paras 34-35). We concur and endorse this view. In its opinion No. 34/2018 finding that Mr. Hammouri’s previous administrative detention was arbitrary, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also expressed views consistent with that of the Human Rights Committee, stating that “…any administrative detention presents severe risks of arbitrary deprivation of liberty and would normally amount to arbitrary detention” (A/HRC/WGAD/2018/34).

We are also extremely alarmed by reports that Mr. Hammouri has been subject to ill-treatment as a punishment for writing to the French President in the exercise of his freedom of expression. The allegations appear to indicate prima facie violations of not only Mr. Hammouri’s rights not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to be treated with humanity while deprived of liberty, but also his right to freedom of expression. Such action would also constitute a reprisal against Mr. Hammouri for engaging in any action to defend his legitimate human rights.

We also express serious concern over the revocation of Mr. Hammouri’s permanent residency in Jerusalem on the basis of his alleged breach of allegiance to Israel. In our views, this amounts to misuse of counter-terrorism legislation in violation of international human rights norms, including the freedom to choose one’s residence and the right to enter his/her own country, as well as international humanitarian law which prohibits forcible transfers and deportations of protected persons from occupied territory, and forced allegiance of the inhabitants of occupied territory to the occupying power. We underscore that such a forcible transfer or deportation from East Jerusalem, which is considered occupied Palestinian territory by international law and consensus, would appear to constitute a war crime under article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. We echo the Human Rights Committee’s concern and recommendation on Israel to “…refrain from using this provision to control the demographic composition in the State party or to silence human rights defenders advocating for the rights of Palestinians” (CCPR/C/ISR/CO/5, para. 19). We recall that, under article 7 (1) (h) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, or other internationally prohibited grounds, amounts to a crime against humanity, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.

We are issuing this appeal in order to safeguard the rights of Mr. Hammouri from irreparable harm and without prejudicing any eventual legal determination.


[1]        UN human rights experts condemned the designation of Addameer and five other Palestinian human rights and civil society organisations as terrorist organisations. https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2021/10/un-experts-condemn-israels-designation-palestinian-human-rights-defenders?LangID=E&NewsID=27702

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