March 29, 2006
EJJP is deeply concerned about the further escalation in violence caused by the Israeli invasion of the Palestinian city of Jericho and the storming of the Muquata and the prison compound by its Army on 14 March. The purpose of this attack was to capture and put under Israeli control Ahmad Sa’adat, Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and four co-detainees (Hamdi Qoraan, Bassel al-Asmar, Mejdu Rehmi, and Ahed abu Gholma). These men are believed to belong to the PFLP militant group, which admitted the assassination of the former Israeli Minister of Tourism, Rehevam Ze’evi, in revenge for the assassination of its leader, Mustafa Abu Ali, in August 2001. Fuad Shobaki, a senior aide to Mr Arafat is accused by Israel of involvement in arms shipments from Iran.
The six prisoners took shelter in Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters in 2001, which was besieged by Israel in 2002. At that time Israel wanted to take them prisoner but the United States intervened to prevent the raid. Under the subsequent , Ramallah Agreement, which was negotiated between the Palestinian Authority, Israel, the United States and Britain in April 2002 the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel agreed on the transfer of the prisoners to the Jericho Prison. The United States and the British administrations stationed unarmed monitors to ensure Israel that the men remained in prison. Following the results of the election in January, i. e. the victory of Hamas, the gain of three seats by PFLP, and in particular, the demands of the members of all parties to release Ahmad Sa’adat, who was a candidate in the elections and participated from prison and won a seat, Britain and the United States became uncomfortable about their mission. On 8 March they sent an appeal to the Palestinian Authority to strengthen the security being provided to the monitors. On 14 March the monitors withdrew from their posts, abandoning the prisoners to the Israeli Army, which stormed the prison compound within minutes. When the Palestinian security men inside surrendered, Ahmad Sa’adat and the other five prisoners gave themselves up. Israeli officials said that they would stand trial in Israel.
EJJP condemns this operation by the Israeli Government and its Army sharply and expresses its indignation that the United States and British guards were withdrawn from the prison before the operation took place without preserving the safety oft the prisoners. We believe that this attack is connected with the desire of the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to show “some election-season muscle-flexing”.
The innumerable humiliations that Palestinians have been forced to endure in the Occupied Territories, the Israeli invasion of a Palestinian city, the armed demolition of a Palestinian prison, the killing and wounding of Palestinian security men, and finally, the kidnapping of unarmed prisoners by military force, with the complicity of major powers, necessarily will cause a deterioration of faith in a government that again and again is forced to demonstrate its lack of control.
EJJP support non-violent actions in defence of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention and the regulations of international law. Our effort as well as the work of Palestinian and Israeli peace groups is impeded when it increasingly becomes apparent, that the United States and European Union continue to guarantee the Israeli government impunity despite its ongoing violations of international law and moreover breach negotiated agreements. The EU has a responsibility in upholding basic civil and human rights accords. Attacks on prisons located in land under occupation are forbidden according to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Treatment of Prisoners of War.
Together with Amnesty International we call on the Israeli authorities “to ensure that all the Palestinians detained after Israel’s attack on the Jericho Prison on 14 March are allowed immediate access to lawyers” and, in particular, are protected against possible torture or ill-treatment. “Those held should be afforded due legal process – notably, anyone who is not charged with a recognizably criminal offence and promptly brought to trial should be released, and those who are charged should be brought promptly to trial in proceedings which comply fully with international standards for fair trial.” (ai, Index MDE 15/022/2006)