Friday, November 18, 2005

Defenseur des droits humains toujours en Détention/ Human rights Fieldwroker still in detention

Il y a quelques temps je vous avais parlé de Ziyad, un correspondant de Al Haq, une organisation de défense des droits humains. Ziyad a été arrêté pour la simple raison qu'il travaille à la défense des droits humains dans les terrioires palestiniens. Il a été arrêté en Mai 2005 et placé en detention administrative (sans possibilité de recours). je viens malheureusement d'apprendre hier que sa detention avait ete renouvelée pour six mois. Il est en plus detenu dans une prison du Neguev reputée pour etre une des pires du systeme israelien. De six mois en six mois, certains prisonniers politiques passent des années en prison.

I found out yesterday that the detention of Ziyad has been extended for another six months

Al-Haq Fieldworker Ziyad Hmeidan in Administrative Detention

On 23 May 2005, Al-Haq fieldworker Ziyad Muhammad Shehadeh Hmeidan was detained at Qalandia checkpoint. Since his detention, Al-Haq has been following his situation closely and has attempted to secure his release and ensure he is not subjected to ill-treatment or torture.

Ziyad, who has worked for Al-Haq for five years, was detained on 23 May, around 16.30, while crossing Qalandia checkpoint. Al-Haq learned of his detention when two Al-Haq staff members passed through the checkpoint several hours later and discovered him handcuffed by the checkpoint. Ziyad told them that he had handed over his ID (#999602097) to Israeli forces, who ran the number through a computer, and then took him aside and handcuffed him. Ziyad was able to speak to the Al-Haq staff members for about half an hour, after which Israeli soldiers removed him to a small room, ostensibly because it was getting cold.

Initial contacts made by Al-Haq suggested Ziyad might be taken to Beit El DCO. However, two days later, Al-Haq learnt that he had initially been transferred to an open-air facility, believed to be part of the Atarot IDF facility, and had then been transferred to Etzion detention centre.

At Etzion detention centre, Ziyad was able to communicate with lawyers from other human rights organisations visiting the prison. Through them, Al-Haq learnt that Ziyad had not been subjected to any physical abuse, and had been interrogated for around two hours on 24 May on subjects unrelated to security or political issues, such as his marital status.

At that time, Ziyad had been informed that he would have a hearing on 31 May, which several staff members from Al-Haq planned to attend. However, Al-Haq subsequently discovered that Ziyad had first been transferred to the East Jerusalem Moscobiyya interrogation centre, also known as the Russian Compound, on May 27 and had been interrogated there for approximately three days. Al-Haq then learnt that the hearing, which was scheduled for 31 May, had taken place a day earlier, thus preventing any staff members from attending.

At the hearing, Ziyad's detention was extended for a further 18 days. Soon thereafter an "Order Prohibiting Meeting with Counsel" was also issued for a period from 13.30 on 30 May until 23.59 on 5 June.

The order, which has its legal basis under Israeli law in Military Order 378 of 1970, is in contravention of international legal protections safeguarding the rights of detainees. While Israel has derogated from its obligations under Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee made it clear in its 1998 periodic review of Israel's compliance with the treaty that a detained person must be allowed access to a lawyer within 48 hours of the detention.

Upon learning about the hearing, Al-Haq employed the services of Israeli lawyer Leah Tsemel, who has extensive experience defending Palestinian detainees. Despite the order preventing Ziyad access to a lawyer, Leah was able to meet Ziyad on 5 June. She reported that he was in good health and had not been subjected to ill-treatment or torture. Her office submitted an appeal for Ziyad's release, on the grounds that no charges had been brought against him. While Leah was able to meet with Ziyad, two Al-Haq lawyers were subsequently prevented from doing so, ostensibly because they were not his legal representatives.

The appeal for release was heard on 14 June, at Ofer military court. At that time the prosecution submitted classified information, which Ziyad's counsel was not permitted to see. On the basis of that evidence the judge dismissed the appeal and a hearing on the extension of Ziyad's detention, which was due to expire in two days, was scheduled for 16 June.

Initially, Al-Haq was informed that Ziyad's detention had been extended for a six-month period by a military court on 16 June. However, Al-Haq subsequently learnt that the Deputy Military Commander of the West Bank had ordered the extension, and that the order would be considered before a military court later in the month.

The hearing on the order was held on 28 June and the order was confirmed. The judge stipulated that the time Ziyad had spent in detention should count towards the six months of detention. That means Ziyad cannot expect to be released before 23 November of this year, and his detention may be extended beyond that date.

On July 3rd, Ziyad was transferred to Ansar III prison. The prison, located in the Negev Desert, is little more than a series of tents in the middle of the desert, and is infamous for its poor conditions.

Additionally, Ziyad's family has been unable to visit him. Initially, they were denied permission. A visit was then scheduled for 13 July through the Red Cross, but it was cancelled in the wake of the Netanya bombing. Ziyad's family has been informed that they will not be allowed to visit him before August.

While an appeal will be launched against Ziyad's detention, it is unlikely that the decision will be overturned. Ziyad, who is married and has two young children, is the main source of support for his elderly parents and several of his siblings who are currently in school or university.

No information on why Ziyad is being held has been released. All interrogations have focused on apolitical and non-security related questions, and no charges have been brought against him.

Further, the possessions Ziyad had with him at the time of his arrest have not been given to him. When he was transferred from Moscobiyya, he asked about his books and papers, but he was given only the money he had on him at that time, and was told that the other items would be transferred to him. This has not happened to date.

Under international human rights law, a detained person must be informed promptly of the reasons for their detention, and administrative detention must be of a short duration only, not for an indefinite period. Further, under international humanitarian law, the right to a fair trial is guaranteed and the principle that no one may be convicted or sentenced, except pursuant to a fair trial offering all essential guarantees has been deemed customary by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Ziyad's situation is not unique. Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners support and human rights organisation, estimated that at the end of 2004 there were over 850 Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli prisons. Further, Israel's widespread and sustained policy of administrative detention is supported by both the government and the judiciary, denying Palestinian detainees any meaningful protection of their rights.

Al-Haq believes that the Israeli policy of administrative detention violates international human rights and humanitarian law. In the absence of clear charges being brought against Ziyad Hmeidan and provision of a fair trial, we demand his immediate and unconditional release.

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