International support for Ameer Makhoul

Ameer Makhoul is a prisoner of conscience
On18 May 2011 French member of parliament, Patrick Braouezec, wrote a letter to Alain Juppé, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, to inform him about situation of Ameer Makhoul. Braouezec writes about the “scandalous conditions” of Ameer’s arrest on 6 May 2010, followed by “twelve days of bad treatment in which he was held in solitary confinement, was put under physical and psychological pressure which are recognized as torture, and was withheld the minimum standard of his civil and political rights. He was condemned in a legal procedure which did not guarantee a fair trial.” The conditions in prison are difficult, writes Braouezec. Quite often, “his family is not allowed to visit him. Most of the time he is not allowed to send or receive letters or books.” Braouezec states that Ameer Makhoul is not the only one who receives this treatment. The majority of the Palestinian political prisoners are treated in the same way. “The State of Israel uses this as a means to intimidate Palestinian Israeli activists, but it acts in violation of international law.”  Braouezec reminds Juppé that France as a contracting party of the Fourth Geneva Convention has obligations. He calls on Juppé to remind the State of Israel of its legal obligations towards the Palestinians, “including the Palestinians living in Israel who are heavily discriminated, and the way it is applied are xenophobic or apartheid policies.”

On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, Amnesty International Belgium started a campaign in support of Palestinian political prisoners Ahmad Qatamesh Samar Barghouti, Ajuad Zidan and Ameer Makhoul.

Amnesty International Belgium writes on its website
Ameer Makhoul is human rights activist who was sentenced to nine years in prison on the basis of a confession that was obtained after torture. In January 2011, Amnesty International urged the Israeli authorities to end the intimidation directed at the Palestinian human rights activist, Ameer Makhoul, from Haifa, Israel. For many years, Ameer has been activist and director of Ittijah ( The Union of Arab Community Based Associations, in Haifa). He works for the rights of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories. Amnesty International fears that this is the underlying reason for his imprisonment.

The prosecutor alleged that Ameer had contacts with a Jordanian activist who was an agent of Hezbollah. Based on several charges, he was convicted for espionage and “contacts with the enemies of Israel.” Originally he was even indicted for more serious offenses, namely “assisting an enemy during the war”, which could have led to a life sentence. Under heavy pressure Ameer agreed to a plea deal whereby he agreed to some confessions in exchange for the prosecutor dropping the more serious accusation.

Amnesty International is deeply concerned about allegations that Ameer confessed under duress and that he was tortured during his interrogation. Nevertheless, the Court accepted the charges. Furthermore, he wasn’t allowed to meet with his lawyers for 12 days after his arrest. The media were given during this period a gag order on the case.

Ameer’s conviction comes at a time when human rights defenders in Israel are under increasing pressure. Some government officials and parliamentarians accuse them of being “unpatriotic and anti-Israel” because of their reports on human rights violations in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

On 25 May, the International Council of the World Social Forum asked for the immediate release of its Palestinian member, Ameer Makhoul, and the other Palestinian political prisoners
who have been illegally detained and condemned under Israeli military orders. In a declaration the WSF International Council writes that Ameer Makhoul, an active member of the WSF International Council and coordinator of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community Associations and a leader in the movement for the protection of the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, was arrested by Israel one year ago. It continues with:

“The morning on 6 May 2010, Ameer Makhoul’s house was raided by Israeli authorities. He was held in solitary confinement for twelve days, subjected to physical and psychological torture and deprived of basic human rights. His lawyers were finally forced to make a plea bargain with the prosecution to avoid a life sentence. Ameer’s trial was a farce and a host of illegalities. On 30 January 2011, Ameer was sentenced to nine years in prison.
The persecution of Ameer Makhoul and other Palestinian civil society leaders – whether citizens of Israel or living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza – demonstrates Israel’s increasingly extreme policy of repression. These acts are invalid and illegitimate, and in flagrant violation of international law. Since 1967, over 700 000 Palestinians, including women and children, were arrested and imprisoned in prisons and detention centers in Israel. The fundamental human rights of prisoners -men, women and children – are being systematically violated.
In a spirit of international solidarity, we call on civil society around the world to mobilize in support of the Palestinian people against Israeli repression and to pressure our governments to ensure Israel stops its violations of Palestinian human rights, ends the occupation and dismantles its apartheid regime.
There will be no peace without justice.”

Members of the WSF International Council present at the meeting in Paris, France

ABONG, ActionAid International, Alianza por un mundo responsable, plural y solidario, Alianza Social Continental, Alternatives, ARCI, Articulación Feminista Marcosur, ATTAC, CADTM, Caritas, CCFD – Terre Solidaire, CEAAL, CERIDA, CETRI, CIEMEN, Ciranda, CIVES, COBAS –   Coordinamento Italiano per FSE e FSM, Comissão Brasileira de Justiça e Paz, CRID, CUT, ENDA, FAMES, FDIM, FLARE – Freedom Legality And Rights in Europe, Forum Mondial des Alternatives, FMAS, Focus on the Global South, Fondation Frantz Fanon, Fundación Galiza Sempre, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Herriak Aske, IBASE, IDEA, INESC, Institut Panos Afrique de l’Ouest, Instituto de Estudios de la CTA, IPAM, IPS, ISCA – UISP, Jubileesouth Asia/Pacific, Kurdish Network, May First/People Link, Mesopotamian Social Forum, NIGD, OJA, Peoples Health Movement, PNGO , Rede Ecosocialista Internacional, ROAD, Social Watch, Stop the Wall, Transnationals Information Exchange, UBUNTU, VK, World March of Women.
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On 31 May, the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) has sent a letter to the president of the UN Human Rights Council to file a complaint against Israel under the ECOSOC 1503 procedure regarding Ameer Makhoul.
AOHR expresses its deep concern about Israel’s detention of Palestinian activist Ameer Makhoul since 6 May 2010.  His arrest “comes following an administrative detention order issued on April 22nd  by the Israeli Interior Minister, prohibiting Makhoul from leaving the country for a period of two months”, AOHR writes. The letter continues,
“the Israeli prosecutor and the investigative court have accepted trialing him under ‘secret evidence’, which subject them to unfair trial and prevent their lawyers from ability to carry out their role. These actions represent a flagrant violation of the UN Declaration and the EU guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.
Last January 2011, the Israeli court has sentenced Mr. Makhoul with 9 years prison, after he has accepted his advocates’ advice to accept certain charges, based on their belief that he will be sentenced in all cases. His advocates and many human rights organizations has announced publicly that Mr. Makhoul is a victim of an Israeli conspiracy.
While condemning Israelli actions strongly and expressing our solidarity with Mr. Makhoul, the AOHR strongly believe that his arrest and trial ia part of an escalated Israeli campaign to restrict civil society organizations and public action, in an attempt to crush the popular movement to defend the rights and existence of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel. The AOHR reard this as a flagrant violation of fundamental freedoms, especially the right to fair trial, the freedom of movement and the freedom of expression.”

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