Palestinian human rights defender, BDS leader Salah Khawaja continues to be imprisoned on Israeli “secret file”

Palestinian human rights defender Salah Khawaja is currently being held in prison on the basis of a so-called “secret file” and threatened with administrative detention, reported the Stop the Wall Campaign. Khawaja, 46, is a member of the Secretariat of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee and a leader of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign. He was seized from his Ramallah home on 26 October 2016 in a pre-dawn armed military raid by Israeli occupation forces and subject to heavy, torturous interrogation, ill-treatment, beatings and denial of access to a lawyer.

Several brief military court hearings were held in Khawaja’s case, in which he was accused of contact with an “agent of an enemy state.” This allegation is frequently leveled against Palestinians who travel to other Arab countries and meet Arab and Palestinian civil activists or media figures outside occupied Palestine. “Enemy states” include Lebanon, Syria and Algeria; thus, similar charges are frequently used against Palestinians who participate in public political events and conferences in Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon based simply on their presence in public places or press interviews.

In Khawaja’s case, it appears that this charge was even weaker than usual; he was accused of meeting someone of unspecified identity in Jordan. After the charges against Khawaja appeared to be falling apart in a hearing on 28 December, the Israeli military prosecution submitted a “secret file” to supplement the charge sheet and pursue an order of administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence. This secret evidence is denied to both the detainee and their lawyers, making it nearly impossible to disprove or mount a defense.

At the 28 December hearing, the military court judge adjourned the case until a time to be set later. In the three-week period since 28 December, no new hearing has been set in Khawaja’s case and this prominent Palestinian human rights defender remains imprisoned on the basis of a so-called “secret file.”

Stop the Wall notes that dubious and frequently-used charges like those in Khawaja’s case have multiple effects on Palestinians imprisoned by the Israeli occupation. “Firstly, they allow Israel to frame and keep human rights defenders in prison. Secondly, they are part of Israeli propaganda efforts to depict its policies of occupation, apartheid and colonisation as a ‘self-defense’ against a Palestinian ‘threat’, ‘terrorism’ and violence. Finally, they aim to create suspicion and mistrust within Palestinian communities as members of the same community are forced to sign confessions.”

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:

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 Donald Trump: 1-202-456-1111

Tell your government:

  1. Salah Khawaja, a Palestinian human rights defender, has been arbitrarily detained since 26 October and his continued confinement is being justified through “secret evidence”. 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. 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 and suspend agreements with Israeli institutions involved in the ongoing imprisonment and oppression of Palestinians.