Israel/OPT: Drop politically motivated charges against Palestinian activist Issa Amro

A military judge at Israel’s Ofer Military Court in the occupied West Bank is expected to give tomorrow his verdict against Issa Amro, a prominent Palestinian activist who is facing politically motivated charges for his peaceful activism against Israel’s military occupation and illegal settlements; some of the charges date back to 2010. Amnesty International fears that Issa Amro will be given a long prison sentence.

Ahead of Issa Amro’s hearing, which is set to take place on 6 January 2021, Saleh Higazi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, 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 (OPT), particularly in Hebron.

“Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Israeli authorities to drop all the charges they have imposed on Issa Amro. It considers them all to be politically motivated and linked to his peaceful work in exposing Israel’s human rights violations.

“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 (OPT), particularly in Hebron.
Saleh Higazi

“More broadly, the organization is urging the Israeli authorities to end their systematic attacks against Palestinian activists who speak up and peacefully act against Israel’s long-standing military occupation. Such attacks are an assault on the right to freedom of expression. The international community must act now to stop this campaign of repression and work to ensure that human rights defenders and activists in Israel and the OPT are protected from arbitrary interference in their work.”

Background

Issa Amro is a founder of the Youth Against Settlements (YAS) group in Hebron. He and his group are committed to non-violent activism against the illegal Israeli settlements in Hebron and the discriminatory restrictions placed on Palestinians by the Israeli authorities in the city. Issa Amro documents human rights violations in the city in the context of Israeli’s military occupation, organizes peaceful protests and distributes information about the settlements, violence by settlers and human rights violations by Israeli forces to journalists, diplomats and other visitors. He is continuously targeted by Israeli authorities and settlers for his human rights work.

Issa Amro first appeared in an Israeli military court in February 2016, when he was presented with 18 charges, ranging from “insulting a soldier” to “participating in a march without a permit”. Some of the charges date back to 2010. Issa Amro denies all the charges. Trials before Israeli military courts fail to meet international standards of fair trial.

Over the past decade, Amnesty International has documented a pattern of attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders and activists in Israel and the OPT. An escalation of acts of intimidation by the Israeli government and of attacks and threats by settlers and other non-state actors has created an increasingly dangerous environment for activists in Israel and in the OPT.

Hebron is one of two Palestinian cities in the OPT that have illegal Israeli settlements inside them. The Israeli authorities have long imposed a set of severe and deeply discriminatory restrictions on movement on Palestinian residents of Hebron that have amounted to collective punishment. Israeli forces in Hebron frequently fail to prevent attacks on Palestinians by settlers, and almost never hold those responsible to account.

In September 2017, Issa Amro was arrested by Palestinian security forces for posting comments on Facebook critical of the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank. He was later charged with disturbing “public order” under the Palestinian Electronic Crimes Law, as well as “causing strife” and “insulting the higher authorities” under the 1960 Jordanian Penal Code, which is still enforced in the West Bank. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank to drop all charges against Issa Amro.