#FreeSalah Khawaja military trial postponed again as UN rapporteurs highlight attacks on human rights defenders

Palestinian BDS leader and human rights defender Salah Khawaja‘s military court hearing at Ofer was postponed once again on 20 December; the next military court hearing will convene at Ofer prison in one week, on 27 December. Khawaja, a member of the coordinating committee of the Stop the Wall Campaign and of the Secretariat of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee, was seized from his home in a pre-dawn raid on 26 October by Israeli occupation forces.

He was subject to extended and torturous interrogation, including beatings and threats to himself and his family, and was denied access to a lawyer for weeks. Since his transfer to the Ofer prison, his military court hearings have been repeatedly postponed.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Michael Lynk, and the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, issued a statement highlighting the persecution of Palestinian human rights defenders. They noted in particular the cases of Issa Amro of Youth Against Settlements in al-Khalil; Farid Al-Atrash, a Palestinian lawyer in al-Khalil; Hasan Safadi, the Arabic media coordinator of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; and the case of Salah Khawaja. Stop the Wall reported that the statement was also endorsed by Roland Adjovi, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

On 10 December, activists in Chalon, France, held a protest to highlight the case of Khawaja, noting that he had previously come to Chalon to speak about the situation in Palestine at an international solidarity events. The French Jewish Union for Peace also issued a call for the release of Khawaja. The protesters distributed leaflets urging the immediate release of Khawaja and similarly detained prisoners. They demanded that the French state act to pressure for Khawaja’s release.

Take Action:

1. Participate in the Front Line Defenders action, urging the Israeli state to immediately release Khawaja and end its persecution of Palestinian human rights defenders. Join in here:  https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/action/take-action-salah-khawaja

2. Demand your country’s officials speak up and end the silence and complicity in the detention of Salah Khawaja and other Palestinian human rights defenders, and over 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners. Call your foreign affairs officials – and members of parliament – and urge action on this case.

Call during your country’s regular office hours:

  • Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop: + 61 2 6277 7500
  • Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion: +1-613-996-5789
  • European Union Commissioner Federica Mogherini: +32 (0) 2 29 53516
  • New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully: +64 4 439 8000
  • United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson: +44 20 7008 1500
  • United States President Barack Obama: 1-202-456-1111

Tell your government:

  1. Salah Khawaja, a Palestinian human rights defender, has been arbitrarily detained since 26 October and denied access to a lawyer. Salah is one of the primary Palestinian voices against the illegal settlements and wall destroying Palestinian land.
  2. Your government must demand Salah’s immediate release and an end to the persecution of Palestinian human rights defenders by the Israeli state. 
  3. Israel’s interrogation of Salah at Petah Tikva violates the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians during Times of War, which prohibits the transfer of protected civilians to the territory of the occupying power. Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians during Times of War, which prohibits the transfer of protected civilians to the territory of the occupying power. 
  4. The government must do more than express concern, but should also take serious measures to end these violations. Representatives of your government should attend Salah’s hearings beginning on 6 November, and suspend agreements with Israeli institutions involved in the ongoing imprisonment and oppression of Palestinians.