Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT): Arbitrary detention of human rights lawyer Salah Hamouri

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your intervention in the following situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the arrest and arbitrary detention of Mr. Salah Hammouri, a Franco-Palestinian human rights defender and lawyer in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

On March 7, 2022, around 4:45 am, about 25 Israeli occupying forces, including special unit forces also known as Al-Mstaribeen unit, broke the door of Salah Hammouri’s apartment in Kufr Aqab, north of Jerusalem, entered into his bedroom and grabbed him from his bed while still sleeping. Mr. Hammouri subsequently stated: “I did not recognize what was happening until they put a flash light on my face, I was totally terrified and thought the worst can happen”. The forces raided the premises, and confiscated three mobile phones and one laptop belonging to Mr. Hammouri. He was then bound with a plastic zip-tie and escorted out. According to an eyewitness, Mr. Hammouri was brought down to the building entrance and was forced to kneel facing the wall until transferred to a military jeep. Mr. Hamouri got injured in his wrist during the arrest. Salah Hammouri was first brought to Ofer prison in Ramallah, where he was held until the evening. There, Mr. Hammouri was allowed a phone call to his lawyer to inform him about his arbitrary arrest, well-being and whereabouts. He was then transferred to Al-Moskobiya detention centre in Jerusalem [1], where he was still detained at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal.

On March 9, 2022, Salah Hammouri was brought to Ofer military court via video conference. During this hearing, his arrest was extended for 48 hours by the judge of the military court on the basis of the Emergency Law of 1945. Since his arrest, Mr. Hammouri was allowed two lawyer visits and a visit by the representative of the Red Crescent.

On the March 10, 2022, the Israeli military commander issued a four-month administrative detention order against Salah Hammouri, which allows the Israeli military to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. Palestinian political prisoners are currently waging a boycott campaign against illegal administrative proceedings and detentions.

The Observatory recalls that Salah Hammouri has been harassed for years and has been arbitrarily detained several times by the Israeli authorities because of his peaceful human rights activities. On October 14, 2020, United Nations human rights experts expressed their concerns in a letter to the Israeli authorities about the “misuse of administrative and criminal law proceedings against Mr. Hammouri”. Additionally, Salah Hammouri’s wife, Ms. Elsa Lefort, a French national, and their children, have been banned by Israeli authorities from entering Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 2016.

The Observatory further recalls that on June 29, 2021, the Israeli Minister of the Interior, Ayelet Shaked, announced the adoption of recommendations made by the Israeli intelligence services to revoke the permanent residency of Salah Hammouri in Jerusalem based on “breach of allegiance”. This decision is based on article 11 a) of the Entry into Israel Law of 1952, which allows Israeli authorities to decide whether Palestinians of Jerusalem can live in their homeland [2]. On October 18, 2021, the revocation of Mr. Hammouri’s permanent residency became official. Since then, this decision has been challenged by Mr. Hammouri’s lawyer and the case is currently pending before the Israeli Supreme Court. Should this measure be implemented, Salah Hammouri, who was born and has lived in Jerusalem since 1985, would be permanently expelled from his country of origin without being able to return.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the arbitrary detention and judicial and administrative harassment of Salah Hammouri, as well as over the threat of his imminent expulsion from his hometown, as it seems to be only aimed at punishing him for the exercise of his legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory calls on the Israeli authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Salah Hammouri, to refrain from withdrawing his permanent residence card and to put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial and administrative levels, against him and all other human rights defenders in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.