UK Parliamentarians demand immediate release of Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro, arrested by the Palestinian Authority

Posted by Caabu on 09 Sep 2017

UK Parliamentarians demand release of Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro, arrested by the Palestinian Authority

9 September 2017 

Caabu is alarmed and appalled by the arrest of human rights defender lssa Amro by the Palestinian Authority for a Facebook post criticising the arrest of a radio journalist on 4 September 2017. Caabu has written to UK ministers about Issa Amro's arrest and has written to the Palestinian Authority demanding his immediate release. 

A Caabu and Medical Aid Palestinians parliamentary delegation met Issa Amro on 31 August 2017 during a visit to Hebron to witness the impact of the Occupation and illegal Israeli settlements in the historic centre of the city. It is vital that British politicians meet Issa Amro and hear about the work of the organisation which he founded, Youth Against Settlements. 

The delegation included former Labour Minister for Education and Minister for the Arts, Baroness Tessa Blackstone, Labour MP for Batley and Spen and Shadow Minister to Early Years, Tracy Brabin, and former Secretary of State for Scotland, former Government Deputy Chief Whip amd Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, Alistair Carmichael. 

lssa Amro was previously on hunger strike, which ended on 8 September 2017 after the Palestinian Authority agreed to his demands of improved conditions. Issa Amro's detention was extended for four days on 7 September 2017. It is alleged that during his interrogation lssa Amro was insulted and humiliated and the interrogators threatened to physically harm him and kill him.

lssa has been charged with disturbing "public order'' under the recently adopted Electronic Crimes Law, as well as "causing strife" and "insulting the higher authorities" under the 1960 Jordanian penal code still enforced in the West Bank.

It is very strange that the Palestinian Authority should detain a man who has spent his life defending Palestinians against harassment, particularly from lsraeli forces in Hebron. lt is therefore very worrying that the Palestinian Authority is engaging in similar tactics to silence those who challenge particular viewpoints. lssa's case is a high profile case in the wider context of the Palestinian Authority's clampdown on freedom of speech. lt is clear that lssa's arrest signifies an intensification in such a campaign that will only cause long term reputational damage and outrage.

Commenting on Issa Amro's arrest, Baroness Tessa Blackstone said: 

"I am shocked that the PA have arrested Issa Amro, a courageous campaigner on behalf of the Palestinian people. The PA should show more concern for freedom of speech and open debate."

Alistair Carmichael MP said:

"Issa Amro is a man who has given his whole life over to campaigning for the human rights of Palestinians.  That he should be arrested for this by the Palestinian Authority would be ironic if it were not so worrying.  The PA must hold itself to the same high standards that it would demand of others. Issa should be restored to his community and those responsible for this mistreatment should be accountable for it. The PA should know that the world is watching to see their response." 

Tracy Brabin MP said:

"Meeting Issa was one of the highlights of our trip. He was charming, knowledgeable and his approach to non-violent, direct actions against the Occupation was modern, outward facing and inclusive. So it was with great sadness we heard that he was later arrested. I hope the Palestinian Authority will now understand that the 'critical friend' is not an enemy but an essential part of the journey to a transparent, fair and democratic society. I sincerely hope these charges will now be dropped and that Issa is allowed to return home to continue his essential work campaigning for peace and justice."

Caabu's Joseph Willits, who accompanied the delegation, said: 

"Caabu will continue to bring British politicians to meet human rights defenders such as Issa, to learn about the incredible work of Youth Against Settlements and to bear witness to the devastating impacts of the Occupation, Israeli violations and illegal settlements. For the Palestinian Authority to detain, silence and abuse such a crucial proponent of Palestinian human rights and dignity is to deny elements of the Occupation itself. The act of silencing a human rights defender such as Issa Amro emboldens and entrenches the Occupation further. Issa Amro and countless other Palestinian activists and civilians need their voices to be amplified further, not silenced by any party who finds their messages uncomfortable."