Free Human Rights Defender Issa Amro

Issa Amro is an internationally recognized Human Rights Defender from the city of Hebron in the Occupied West Bank. He is currently facing 18 charges1 in Israeli military court. The charges include such things as organizing an “illegal demonstration” in August 2010, allegedly spitting in the direction of a settler in 2012, insulting a soldier in March 2013, and entering a “closed military zone” in February 2016. Several of the charges against Mr. Amro had previously been investigated and dismissed.

In 2010, Mr. Amro was declared Human Rights Defender of the Year for Palestine by the The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In 2011, Mr. Amro was a guest of the US State Department as part of their International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). In 2013 he was declared a Human Rights Defender by the European Union. His status as an EU HRD was reaffirmed in 2016. Mr. Amro gave testimony to the United Nations in 2013 and 2014. On March 20, 2017 he again addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council. On March 21, 2017 he met with UN Deputy Secretary General for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore. A US State Department report on human rights in Israel/Palestine for 2016 included his legal case.  

Mr. Amro’s case is an example of widespread targeting of human rights activists using old and exaggerated charges in a military court system whose conviction rate for Palestinians is over 99 percent. In November 2016 Amnesty International called for Israel to drop the “baseless” charges against Mr Amro. Amnesty International has stated that if convicted, Mr. Amro will be considered a Prisoner of Conscience. In December 2016, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Michael Lynks, and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michael Forst, expressed serious concern for Mr. Amro’s case:

“This relatively unusual practice of bringing up stale charges, which were not pursued many years ago, strongly suggests that Mr. Amro is being unfairly targeted due to his legitimate and peaceful human rights work ... Mr. Amro has been subject to a concerted pattern of harassment and intimidation by the Israeli authorities aimed at inhibiting his work as a human rights defender,” they said recalling previous warnings from United Nations human rights experts. “This trial appears to form part of this same pattern.”  

Mr. Amro’s trial began on November 23, 2016. In attendance were representatives from the embassies and consulates of the US (Michael Lebson of the US embassy in Tel Aviv), UK, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Also in attendance were representatives from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the OPT, Human Rights Watch, and other international organizations. Mr. Amro’s attorney, Gabby Lasky, asked that 14 of the 18 charges against Mr. Amro be dropped on the basis of being old and in some cases charges that had been previously investigated and closed. The court declined to drop or reduce any of the charges on the basis that collecting and using old charges to file an indictment against Mr. Amro is acceptable because Mr. Amro continues to repeat his [nonviolent] practices. 

On March 26, 2017 Mr. Amro had another court date in Ofer military court where the indictment was read. His next court date will be June 27, 2017 where the first nine of the 38 witnesses against him will testify. 

SIGN THE PETITION, asking the United Nations to demand Israel drop the charges.

ARTICLES

New York Times
Who’s Afraid of Nonviolence?

By MICHAEL CHABON and AYELET WALDMAN
Issa Amro, a native of the city of Hebron and a prominent Palestinian advocate of nonviolent resistance, has been waiting now for nearly two months to find out when he can expect to face trial in an Israeli military courtroom. He has been accused of a series of offenses ranging from demonstrating without a permit to “insulting a soldier.”

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Huffington Post
Israel Puts Celebrated Palestinian Activist On Trial

By David Palumbo-Liu
On November 23, the long-delayed trial of human rights defender Issa Amro began in a military court in the occupied West Bank. Charges against Amro, a 36-year-old Palestinian activist who heads the non-violent human rights group, Youth Against Settlements, stem from 18 alleged crimes stretching back three years. Among the charges— “insulting” an Israeli officer. Other changes include organizing demonstrations and “incitement,” a catch-all term that has been particularly used to arrest and detain people for postings on social media. What is highly significant in this case is that by reaching back this far in time and gathering together these charges in one bundle, what were relatively minor “crimes” are now consolidated into charges that can earn him a much longer sentence.

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VICE
A Famous Palestinian Activist Could Be Sent to Israel Prison for His Years of Nonviolent Protest

On Sunday, Issa Amro, a Palestinian human rights activist, will appear in the Israeli military court at Ofer to defend himself against 18 charges that could result in one to three years in prison. At 36, Amro is already internationally renowned as the founder of Youth Against Settlements, an organization devoted to ending Israel's occupation of the Palestinian Territories through nonviolent action. The Israeli authorities have arrested him many times before, a common enough occurrence for any Palestinian protesting the occupation. But this time, Amro says, is different.

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