On 4 August 2021, I wrote a communication jointly with four other UN experts to the State of Palestine regarding the alleged arbitrary detention of human rights defenders Mr. Mohannad Karajah, Mr. Jihad Abdo and Mr. Ezz El Din Zaaloul.
Mr. Mohannad Karajah is a Palestinian human rights defender and attorney representing Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, a non-governmental organisation that supports Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli and Palestinian prisons by providing free legal aid as well as carrying out research and advocacy work.
Mr. Jihad Abdo and Mr. Ezz El Din Zaaloul are human rights defenders and members of the Coalition of Civilized Demand for Fair Palestinian Telecom Sector, which promotes and protects economic rights and partakes in peaceful protests to call for an end to corruption within the Palestinian authorities, in particular the telecom sector.
On 4 July 2021, several members of the Palestinian police force arbitrarily arrested Mr. Karajah at the Court of Ramallah, where he was practicing his work as a lawyer. Upon his arrest, the human rights defender asked the police to show him the arrest warrant. The police told him that a warrant had been issued for his arrest, but they did not have it with them. Mr. Karajah was taken to the intelligence office for interrogation, but refused to speak without the presence of his lawyer. He remained in custody for almost 4 hours and was denied his right to contact his lawyer or his family. Before being released, the police forced the human rights defender to sign a document claiming he agreed to attend an interrogation before the Public Prosecution the following day. Later that day, the Public Prosecutor denied having ever issued the arrest warrant in question.
Mr. Karajah has been accused of “denouncing the Palestinian Authority”, “illegal demonstration” and “inciting hatred within the communities” under the Cyber Crime Law No.10 of 2018 and Jordanian Penal Code No.16 of 1960. However, the human rights defender did not attend the hearing scheduled 5 July 2021, as the authorities did not officially inform him or the Bar Association of this summons. At the time of writing, Mr. Karajah remains free pending trial. No trial date has been scheduled.
On 4 July 2021, a group of human rights defenders and lawyers peacefully demonstrated outside the Court of Ramallah in protest against the arbitrary detention of Mr. Karajah. As a result, two human rights defenders, Mr. Abdo and Mr. Zaaloul were arrested without a warrant. Both human rights defenders have not been formally charged by the public prosecution but have been accused of the same charges as Mr. Karajah listed above. Mr. Abdo was released on 6 July 2021, and Mr. Zaaloul was released on 7 July 2021. Their trial is due to take place in September 2021.
Mr. Karajah has previously been targeted for his work as a human rights defender. On 4 October 2016, Mr. Karajah was physically attacked and injured by police officers during his participation in a peaceful protest in Ramallah.
In the communication we voiced concern about the circumstances surrounding the detention of Mr. Karajah, particularly with regard to the absence of a warrant. We also expressed concern that the two other human rights defenders, Mr. Abdo and Mr. Zaaloul were arbitrarily detained after their peaceful protests. We are deeply concerned that the three human rights defenders have been targeted due to their legitimate work, and that the criminalisation against them will deter other human rights defenders in Palestine from carrying out their work, for fear of retaliation.
This is a shorter version of the original communication.