Friday, April 10, 2015

Israel locks up Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar

Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar
“We don’t know whether Israel’s detention of the Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar has anything to do with her passionate advocacy for prisoners’ rights. It could be her membership on a government-appointed committee mandated to follow up Palestine’s recent accession to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Israel is not saying. But one thing is quite clear: her case is rife with due process violations,” writes Bill Van Esveld in Human Rights Watch’s Dispatches on Thursday, Apri 9.

Israeli forces raided Jarrar’s West Bank home in Ramallah around 1 a.m. on April 2 and arrested her. They shuttled her to an Israeli settlement, then to two military bases, interrogating her at the second all morning, before transferring her to a prison inside Israel, her lawyers said. On April 5, the Israeli military commander of the West Bank ordered her administrative detention for six months.

“They attacked our house at about 1 a.m. They broke the door… They isolated me in another room and stayed in my house for about an hour. Finally they kidnapped my wife, Khalida,” her husband Ghassan Jarrar said.

He added that the IDF violated an agreement with the Palestinian Authority under which the Israelis are not supposed to detain elected Palestinian officials.

Under Israeli law, the military can detain any Palestinian without charge or trial if it can convince a military judge that the evidence provides “reasonable grounds to believe” that the person poses a “danger to security,” Van Esveld writes. “The military is under no obligation to share that evidence with the person being detained. The military judge can approve a military order detaining him or her for up to six months; the detention can be indefinitely renewed.

An Israeli military commander later ordered the administrative detention of Jarrar for six months, the maximum term Israeli law allows a person to be held in custody without a charge or a court order.

The MP joins over 450 people currently held in administrative detention in Israel, according to the Addemeer Prisoner Support Association. The number is lower than it was three years ago, before Israel scaled down the detentions following a prolonged hunger strike by detainees.

The Fourth Geneva Convention on military occupations allows for temporary detention of civilians without charge “if necessary, for imperative reasons of security.” That’s an easy claim to make when the 400-plus Palestinian administrative detainees are provided no fair opportunity to contest the evidence against them, Van Esveld notes.

Jarrar -- a 52-year-old member of the Palestinian parliament --  is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a political party that Israel has deemed an “illegal terrorist organization.” The party has an armed wing that has attacked Israeli civilians but the Israeli military hasn’t charged her with any link to such attacks. During her interrogation on April 2, Israeli officials played three videos of her making speeches and questioned her about her political statements, Jarrar later told her lawyer.

Jarrar is no stranger to Israeli harassment. Israel has banned her from traveling abroad since 1998, although it allowed her to receive medical treatment in Jordan in 2010. Last August, the military issued a “supervision order” requiring her to leave her home and stay in Jericho for six months on the basis that she posed a security threat due to her alleged “incitement and involvement in terror.” She ignored the order and set up a protest tent outside the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah; the military later shortened her expulsion to 30 days and took no further action to enforce it.

Her position as a member of the team that oversaw the Palestinian Authority becoming a member of the ICC last week led to suspicion that the arrest may be a punishment. Israel has been fiercely opposed to Palestine joining the ICC.

“This is how Israel seeks to deter every Palestinian public activist -- not to mention one involved with advancing the processes in the ICC – from realizing his or her rights,” the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said in an editorial.

“If Jarrar broke the law, Israel must put her on trial and prove she committed a crime. If, on the other hand, the reason for her detention is revenge, she must be released immediately,” the paper added.

Khalida Kana’an Muhammad Jarrar was elected to Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) in January 2006 as one of the PFLP's three deputies and has continued to serve as an elected representative ever since. She is also the Palestinian representative on the Council of Europe and is currently head of the Prisoners Committee of the PLC

Jarrar has been a human rights activist for many years. She is active in support of Palestinian prisoners and she served as the director of Adameer Prisoners' Support and Human Rights Association in Ramallah from 1993 to 2005 and remains a board member. She has also previously worked with UNRWA  and has been prominently active in working with Palestinian women and advocating for women's rights. In 1989, Jarra was arrested by the IDF for taking part of a protest on International Women’s Day.

Since 1998 Jarrar has been banned from travelling outside of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She has two children.

In 2005 Israel refused to allow her to leave the country to attend a human rights conference in Ireland.

Jarrar’s arrest brings the number of Palestinian legislators currently held in Israeli prisons to 16.