Sir, – In the early hours of July 30th, dozens of Israeli soldiers arrested Mahmoud Nawajaa, the general coordinator of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement in his home near Ramallah in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT).
Since his arbitrary arrest, he has thrice had his detention extended by Israeli authorities, was only allowed to meet his lawyer 12 days after his arrest, and has been denied family visits.
He is being held in a prison inside the State of Israel – in violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits the transfer of detainees from occupied territory into the territory of the occupying power – where he now potentially faces indefinite internment without trial under an administrative detention order, or prosecution under Israel’s military court system which has a reported conviction rate of 99.7 per cent.
Mr Nawajaa is a human rights defender and community leader who has been imprisoned solely for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and association. He is therefore a prisoner of conscience, and he must be immediately and unconditionally released.
Both the Irish Government and the EU must loudly echo this call for the release of Mr Nawajaa, and make it clear that Israel’s attacks against human rights defenders and others who criticise Israel’s occupation will not be tolerated.
Silence on this matter will only be interpreted by Israeli authorities as a green light to continue long-standing attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders, others who criticise Israel’s continuing military occupation, and those who advocate for BDS as means to end the occupation and secure Palestinian rights.
Although the signatories to this letter have differing positions on BDS, we are all in firm agreement that advocating for boycotts, divestment and sanctions is a form of non-violent advocacy and of free expression that must be protected by all states.
Sadly, this is not always the case; it is deeply worrying that, alongside Israel, states such as Germany, Austria, France, Britain and the United States have, of late, taken measures seeking to criminalise, restrict or otherwise create climates of intimidation for BDS activists.
In June this year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the conviction of activists in France for organising actions calling for a boycott of Israeli products violated their right to freedom of expression
In the OPT, in Israel, and in the rest of the world – Ireland included – it is fundamental that BDS advocates are free to express their views and campaign without harassment, threats of prosecution or criminalisation, or other measures that violate the right to freedom of expression. – Yours, etc,
CAOIMHE DE BARRA,
Front Line Defenders;
of Trade Unions;
CEO, Christian Aid Ireland;
Senator FRANCES BLACK,
of Palestine Group;
General Director, Al-Haq;
of Students in Ireland;
National Union of Students-
Union of Students in Ireland;
Afri – Action from Ireland;
FATIN AL TAMIMI,
Chair, Sadaka – The Ireland
Trade Union Friends
Rev Dr JOHN PARKIN,
Chair, Kairos Ireland;
Gaza Action Ireland,