Since December 2009, when An Nabi Saleh began their non-violent protests against the continued stealing of their land by the illegal Israeli colony of Halamish, more than 13% of the village’s residents – 64 people – have been arrested and jailed as of 31 March 2011. All but three were tried for participating in the non-violent demonstrations. Of those imprisoned, 29 have been minors under the age of 18 years and 4 have been women.
On 6 March 2011, the Israeli military stepped up its attempts to crush An Nabi Saleh’s non-violent resistance, arresting village leader, Naji Tamimi. Naji was arrested at 1.30 am in the morning when the Israeli military raided his home. It took 19 days for the Israeli military to finally come up with charges against him. These charges included “incitement” and participating in and organising “illegal” demonstrations and entering a “closed military zone”. The Israeli military on March 6 also attempted to arrest Bassem Tamimi, another village leader, raiding his home. Bassem, however, was absent.
On 24 March 2011, Bassem was arrested when the Israeli military violently stormed his home, minutes after he had entered to prepare for a meeting with foreign diplomats. Nariman Tamimi was beaten by the Israeli military, along with her daughter when she attempted to video and document her husband’s arrest. Bassem has been is charged with incitement, organizing unpermitted marches, solicitation to throw stones, disobeying the duty to report to questioning, and a scandalous obstruction of justice charge, for allegedly giving youth advice on how to act under interrogation by the police in the event that they are arrested.
Addameer, the Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association (click here to go to their website) has compiled the following profiles on some of the political prisoners from Nabi Saleh.
Currently there are many more villagers from Nabi Saleh who also remain in Israel’s occupation prisons, including Nabi Saleh leader, Naji Tamimi.
ISLAM SALAH DAR AYYOUB TAMIMI
Date of birth: 21 November 1996
Place of residence: Nabi Saleh
Date of arrest: 23 January 2011
Place of detention: Currently under house arrest
Islam Dar Ayyoub was arrested in the early hours of 23 January, when the Israeli forces entered his house at 2 a.m., asking for him. He had already been arrested earlier that month and held for several hours at Halamish settlement before being released. The family’s house had also been targeted twice that month for ‘mapping’ by the Israeli forces: an operation in which soldiers enter the house in the middle of the night, wake up its inhabitants and take photographs and ID numbers of all the men and children living there. On this occasion, Islam had thought the army had come to arrest his older brother, Omar, but instead the Israeli army forced Islam onto the ground and applied plastic handcuffs, without giving an explanation for his arrest. When his family tried to stop the soldiers, they were all beaten. Islam was blindfolded and taken by military jeep to Halamish settlement. He was without shoes and thrown to the ground and left there for several hours, all the time not knowing where he was.
At approximately 9.30am he was driven to the police station at Ma’ale Adumim settlement for interrogation, but was not informed of where he was being taken.
Whilst under interrogation at the police station Islam was threatened with electric shock treatment or attacks by dogs. His lawyer appeared at the police station but the Head of Interrogation of Judea and Samaria gave the order not to give him access as, according to him, Islam was beginning to admit to accusations and incriminate others, and the lawyer’s presence may ‘compromise the interrogation’. During his interrogation Islam was not informed of his right to remain silent nor of his right to seek legal counsel. It was only after approximately five hours of interrogation that he was allowed to see his lawyer who was waiting outside. By this time, he had already signed a statement in Hebrew on the understanding that if he did so his family would come and collect him and take him home. The statement, which he did not understand, incriminated Bassem and Naji Tamimi, two of the key protest organizers from Nabi Saleh. After signing the statement iron handcuffs were applied to him and he was taken by military car to Ofer detention center. After spending 3 days at Ofer, Islam was brought before a Military Judge. He has been charged with stone-throwing.
In the trial-within-a-trial procedure, Islam’s lawyer has challenged the admissibility of the evidence against Islam on the grounds of not being granted access to a lawyer or family member for 5 hours, during which time he was subjected to ill treatment. At Ofer Court on 16 May, expert opinions were submitted by former Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak related to the treatment of child detainees in accordance with the UN Convention on Torture, and by a child psychologist who detailed the effect of detention on minors. However, these were rejected by the Military Judge in concurrence with objections made by the Prosecution on the grounds that experts must appear in court in person to testify. Both experts have agreed to testify before the end of Islam’s trial. Islam’s lawyer has also appeared as a witness, having passed his legal duties in Court to another lawyer, and testified about the denial of access to his client for 5 hours and the condition he found Islam in when they finally met.
CONDITIONS OF DETENTION
Whilst Islam was at Ofer, he shared a cell only with children, but nevertheless found himself in the presence of adult prisoners when they spent time outside the cells. Islam then spent three months in detention at Rimonim before being released and placed under house arrest at his home in Nabi Saleh on 5,000 NIS bail and 5,000 NIS third party guarantee (equivalent to almost $3,000). At Rimonim, Islam describes the conditions as very poor. Water was scarce so he was only able to wash himself once a week, and the food was of very bad quality and tasted as if it had been contaminated. Under house arrest, he is not allowed to go to school or leave the house, but any further restrictions such as reporting periodically to the police or being available for phone calls from them were successfully challenged by Islam’s lawyer.
Two of Islam’s brothers were also detained around the same period, in a clear effort by the Israeli army to target as many inhabitants of Nabi Saleh as possible due to their involvement in weekly protests against the illegal settlements. Only two days after Islam’s arrest, his 11-year-old brother Karim was hauled into a vehicle by Israeli border police who had entered the village. Karim was taken to a police station in Jerusalem and interrogated for several hours before being released. On 27 January Islam’s older brother Omar, 24 years old, was arrested in another raid on the village. He has since been convicted of replacing an Israeli flag with a Palestinian one near Nabi Saleh, and sentenced to one year imprisonment.
NABI SALEH: UNDER ATTACK
The arrest of Islam is part of a systematic attempt by Israel to silence the popular resistance movement in the village of Nabi Saleh, which has been active since December 2009. Since the beginning of weekly demonstrations protesting Israel’s expansionist policies and the creeping confiscation of their lands by the nearby Halamish settlement, the 500 residents of Nabi Saleh have been subjected to arrests, regular night raids by Israeli forces, forced curfews and the use of new weaponry targeting the protestors. Arrests take place on a weekly basis, often in the middle of the night and often targeting minors. Approximately 80 people have been arrested on protest-related suspicions; at least 20 arrests occurred in the first three months of 2011, and half of these were minors. Children are the regular target of arrests by Israeli forces as the trauma of interrogation, especially in the middle of the night, often leads them to sign confessions under duress or in the belief that they will be released if they do so. These confessions are then used to incriminate the protest leaders, who are also subsequently arrested.
For more information on the arrest and detention of human rights defenders, click here. For more information on Palestinian children in Israeli prisons, click here.
BASSEM MOHAMMED ABD AL-RAHMAN TAMIMI
“Regardless of how just or unjust this ruling will be, and despite all your racist and inhumane practices and Occupation, we will continue to believe in peace, justice and human values. We will still raise our children to love; love the land and the people without discrimination of race, religion or ethnicity; […] With love and justice, we make peace and build the future.”– Bassem Tamimi
Date of birth: 30 March 1967
Occupation: Deputy Head of Visa Department, Ministry of the Interior
Bassem Tamimi is a human rights defender whose trial began on Sunday 5 June. Bassem is a veteran activist, protest organizer, and the coordinator of Nabi Saleh’s committee for the Popular Resistance Movement. Bassem is one of the foremost proponents of the nonviolent popular resistance movement against the Occupation today in the West Bank and is firmly committed to working with Israeli and international activists in their joint struggle to achieve peace and justice.
Bassem was arrested on 24 March 2011 at 12:00 pm from his home in Nabi Saleh. Bassem had returned to Nabi Saleh from Ramallah in order to visit his mother and meet with a European diplomat in his home, who was due at 1:00 pm. Just minutes after arriving home, however, Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) surrounded his house. Around 25 soldiers entered his home, while nine jeeps and one tank waited outside. The soldiers did not present a warrant nor state the reason for arrest before seizing Bassem, whilst also hitting his wife and daughters, and pushing his elderly mother.
Bassem’s arrest came three weeks after the 6 March arrest of his cousin, Naji Tamimi, another leader of Nabi Saleh’s popular resistance, who has been sentenced to one year imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 shekels ($2,914). The same night that Naji was arrested, soldiers had come searching for Bassem in his home and destroyed much of its contents when they did not find him there.
DETENTION AND TRIAL
Following his arrest, Bassem was taken to Ofer prison. He was detained for seven days before being brought before a judge for the first time. Revealed in the transcript of his police interrogation, Bassem was accused during questioning of “consulting with lawyers and foreigners to prepare for his interrogation,” which reveals a clear disregard for due process rights, including the right to seek legal counsel. He has since been charged with incitement, organizing unauthorized marches, solicitation to throw stones, failure to report for questioning, and an excessive obstruction of justice charge for allegedly advising youth on how to act if under Israeli police interrogation. A military judge further ordered Bassem to be kept in remand until the end of legal proceedings.
After more than two months of detention, Bassem’s trial began on 5 June, during which he pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. As all the information available to the judge is undisclosed to Bassem and his lawyer, Bassem’s lawyer submitted a petition to appeal the secrecy of the file, in order for Bassem to exercise his legal right to defend all the specific charges against him.During the hearing at Ofer Military Court, Bassem read a statement describing the oppression he and his family have endured due to the Occupation and his reasons for organizing peaceful protests in Nabi Saleh. The military judge cut Bassem’s statement short and refused to submit the full version to the court stenographer. In reference to the charge against Bassem for failure to report for questioning, Bassem’s lawyer stated that it is not mandatory by law to report to the police if a request for interrogation is made by phone call, as was done in Bassem’s case, as anyone can pretend to be the police by phone. He further reiterated that Bassem refutes all the allegations against him.
The indictments against Bassem and Naji are largely based on coerced confessions of two minors, aged 14 and 15. The two youths were arrested in the middle of the night at gunpoint, beaten by soldiers, and denied legal rights during interrogation. In the case of the 14-year-old, his statement, which incriminated Bassem and Naji, was presented to him written in Hebrew, forcing him to sign a piece of paper he could not read nor understand.
A second hearing for Bassem’s case was held on 27 June 2011 but when the prosecution witnesses failed to appear in court, the trial was postponed until 28 August 2011. Since then, no additional hearings have been held and the trial has been repeatedly postponed until 21 September 2011.
These recent events are not the first time that Bassem has been subjected to arrest, detention and harassment by the Israeli authorities in relation to his activism. On the contrary, he has been subjected to ongoing measures of harassment and intimidation in relation to his human rights advocacy, starting as far back as the First Intifada. This detention marks Bassem’s eleventh arrest by the Israeli army. He has never been convicted of any offence, and in all but one of his previous arrests he was held without charge or trial in administrative detention. In total, he has spent almost three years in administrative detention, with the longest period lasting for eight consecutive months.
In 1993, Bassem was arrested on suspicion of killing an Israeli settler from Beit El and later cleared of all charges. He was severely tortured under interrogation, which resulted in his collapse and put him in a coma for seven days. This episode left him with a serious brain injury and he was partially paralyzed for a brief period.
As prominent activists and organizers of Nabi Saleh’s resistance movement, Bassem and his wife, Nariman, have been targeted by the Israeli army in all facets of their lives. Nariman herself has been arrested on two different occasions. Despite being accused of obstructing soldiers and sentenced in January 2010 to six months’ probation with a suspended sentence, requiring her to not take part in demonstrations, Nariman continues to document the weekly protests in Nabi Saleh and coordinate with activists throughout the West Bank.
She is also looking after their four children, who she says have suffered considerably from the trauma of their father and mother’s arrests, particularly her oldest and youngest sons. Salam, only 5 years old, questions why he was named ‘peace’ when there is no peace around him. Waed, 14, is also deeply troubled, as there is fear that the Israeli army wants to arrest him next. Their daughter, Ahed, 10, is constantly scared of the soldiers returning to their house. All four children are active participants in the demonstrations, and Waed and Mohammed, 8, have both been hospitalized for injuries resulting from rubber-coated bullets and tear-gas projectiles fired by Israeli soldiers. Bassem’s children’s grades in school, like most of the children in the village, have consistently dropped. In addition, the house itself has been under a demolition order by the Israeli military since June 2010. While Bassem was detained in 1993, his sister died of a brain hemorrhage after being beaten by Israeli soldiers outside the Ramallah Military Court. Bassem’s mother, Farha, wakes each night crying and screaming out for her imprisoned son and lost daughter.
Nariman is currently not permitted to visit Bassem in prison. Bassem’s mother is not well enough to travel to visit him, and Nariman is afraid to send her children to visit him on their own in case they too get arrested.
But despite all that their family and the village as a whole face on a daily basis, the weekly protests still continue. Nariman comments that everyone in the village is a leader of these protests, even the children, as they all understand the shared purpose of ending the Occupation. Says Nariman: “We are a Palestinian family like all families in the world – looking for peace for our children. The army destroyed happiness for our children by arresting their mother and father. Bassem is like a knight with a weapon, who chose to throw his weapon away in order to fight for peace instead of war. We have tried to raise our children by instilling these values of peace, but we are afraid that the violence they witness will only perpetuate more violence in their lives. Bassem is one of 6,000 prisoners in Israeli prisons and our call is for all of them to be free.”
NABI SALEH: UNDER ATTACK
Bassem’s arrest is part of a systematic attempt by Israel to silence the popular resistance movement in the village of Nabi Saleh, which has been active since December 2009. Since the beginning of weekly demonstrations protesting Israel’s expansionist policies and the creeping confiscation of their lands and water source by the nearby Halamish settlement, the 500 residents of Nabi Saleh have been subjected to arrests, regular night raids by Israeli forces, forced curfews and the use of new weaponry targeting the protestors. Arrests take place on a weekly basis, often in the middle of the night and often targeting minors. Approximately 80 people have been arrested on protest-related suspicions; at least 20 arrests occurred in the first three months of 2011, and half of these were minors. Children are the regular target of arrests by Israeli forces as the trauma of interrogation, especially in the middle of the night, often leads them to sign confessions under duress or in the belief that they will be released if they do so. These confessions are then used to incriminate the protest leaders, who are also subsequently arrested.
* * *
“Human rights defenders” are formally defined as persons who work, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Bassem clearly falls within the category, in that his activities are peaceful in nature and aimed at the promotion of human rights.
Addameer views Bassem’s imprisonment as a deliberate violation of his fundamental freedoms and special protections provided under international law for human rights defenders, particularly freedoms of movement, expression, association and non-violent assembly. Furthermore, as the charges against Bassem are based on coerced confessions of minors, Addameer considers the conduct of Bassem’s trial to be in violation of fundamental due process principles and human rights standards.
Here is how you can help Bassem Tamimi:
Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Bassem Tamimi be released immediately, and that Israeli security authorities immediately cease their unlawful arrest and detention policies of Palestinian human rights defenders. Contact details:
Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, 3 KaplanStreet, PO Box 187, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91919. Fax: +972.2.651.2631/2.670.5475, E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Yehuda Weinstein, Attorney General, 29 Salah al-Din St., Jerusalem, 91010. Tel: +972.2.646.6521/2, Fax: +972.2.646.7001
Mr. Ehud Barak, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Ministry of Defence, 37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya, Tel Aviv 61909, Israel. Fax: +972.3.691.6940, Email: email@example.com
Mr. Avigdor Lieberman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 9 Yitzhak Rabin Boulevard, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91035. Fax: +972.2.628.7757/ +972.2.628.8618/ +972.2.530.3367 . Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Yaakov Ne’eman, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, 29 Salah al-Din Street, Jerusalem 91010. Fax: +972.2.628.7757/ +972.2.628.8618/ +972.2.530.3367 . Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva, Avenue de la Paix 1-3, CH-1202, Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41.22.716.0555 E-mail: email@example.com
Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi, OC Central Command Nehemia Base, Central Command, Neveh Yaacov, Jerusalam. Fax: +972 2 530 5741
Write to your own elected and diplomatic representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release Bassem Tamimi and to put an end to the ongoing harassment against Palestinian human rights defenders. Encourage diplomatic representatives to attend and monitor Bassem’s trial hearings. Contact details for international embassies and consulates in Israel are available at: http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-in/Israel.
For more information about Israeli arrest and detention of Palestinian human rights defenders, click here.