HA’ARETZ, July 6, 2001
Ha’aretz English website (http://www.haaretz.co.il)
This week, attorney Allegra Pacheco went to the acting military court at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem for the extension of the remand of human rights activist Abed al-Ahmar. This young woman is one of the few lawyers still ready to deal with such cases.
Ahmar, a resident of the Deheisheh refugee camp, is employed as a field investigator for the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG). He was arrested in Jerusalem because he did not have an entry permit into Israel, but during the ensuing weeks he was questioned and tortured by the Shin Bet security service. This week his remand was extended for the third time.
Pacheco waited in front of the building. Erected in the late 19th century as a hostel for Russian pilgrims, it still seems to be under Ottoman rule: The path runs between dried thistles, with piles of garbage, old bottles, building materials and all kinds of metal scrap strewn among them. There is no evidence that the military justice system has any self-respect.
The remand was postponed until the afternoon, and in the afternoon it was postponed again; for a moment, the prosecution toyed with the possibility of releasing Ahmar. During the past two weeks he has not been interrogated, and all signs indicate that the Shin Bet does not really know what it wants from him.
But had he been released, it would have been an admission that the Shin Bet had held him for no reason. The Shin Bet solved the problem in its own way: An officer with the rank of colonel, Ariel Peled, who bears the title of “military commander for the Judea and Samaria region”, signed an administrative detention order; Ahmar is supposed to remain in the Megiddo Prison for half a year. In the nature of things, he was not told why.
Detention without trial is not only detention contrary to the principles of human rights; it is, in the nature of things, detention without explanation, apart from that offered to Ahmar by a Shin Bet man after the detention order was signed: “We do what we want.”
Ahmar spent about six years in an Israeli prison for his activities in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and another two and a half years in administrative detention. The torture he underwent has affected his health to this day. In the past, he was an investigator for B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, and in recent years has dealt mainly with human rights violations in the territories of the Palestinian Authority.
PA Chairman Yasser Arafat can see his arrest as a gift, and it seems to be no accident that there has so far been no mention of his arrest in the Palestinian media. Human rights organizations abroad, notably Amnesty International, have adopted him and are conducting an international campaign for his release. Bassem Eid, the director-general of the PHRMG, said this week that during the past few weeks he has received about a thousand letters, most of them from Europe, and most with copies to the Prime Minister’s Office. Israel does not really need a prisoner like this right now.
Colonel Peled, who signed the detention order, determined with his signature that “he had examined the negative security evidence” on Ahmar, and is ordering that he be detained “for definite security reasons”, and because he has “a reasonable basis to assume” that “reasons of regional security and public security make this essential”. It is to be hoped that the officer does know what he has signed, and that if not, he has signed a mendacious document and has incriminated himself. Either way, it is to be hoped for his sake that his superiors have warned him not to show up at the Brussels airport in the near future: In Belgium, he could be tried for what he has done.
Last updated on 4.8.2001