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CIHRS, BCHR and 22 other organisations demand the release of human rights defender Ameer Makhoul

(CIHRS/IFEX) - May 20, 2010 - The undersigned organizations are gravely concerned by the arbitrary measures taken by the Israeli authorities against prominent human rights defender Ameer Makhoul, the director-general of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, an umbrella group for dozens of Arab NGOs working on behalf of Arab Israelis.

The Israeli authorities suddenly arrested Makhoul on May 6, a short time after the Ministry of Internal Security issued an administrative order on April 22 banning Makhoul from leaving the country for two months due to unspecified security concerns. Under the order, Makhoul was prohibited from crossing the Israeli-Jordanian border.

The undersigned organizations believe that these measures against Makhoul are closely tied to the role of Ittijah in exposing racist practices and abuses against Arab Israelis. They are also part and parcel of measures routinely taken by Israel against Palestinian activists, both inside the Green Line and in the territories occupied in 1967, in order to obstruct contact between human rights defenders and civil society activists in these areas and their peers in the wider Arab and international world.

According to information received by the undersigned organizations, Ameer Makhoul was arrested during a raid on his home during which many of his personal belongings were confiscated, including his mobile phone. Israeli security personnel also raided the offices of Ittijah and confiscated computers and other items. These measures are based on Article 6 of the Emergency Statutes, passed in 1945. Although theoretically Makhoul can contest his detention and the travel ban before the Israeli High Court, in practice the court's role is to legitimize such arbitrary measures. Neither Makhoul nor his lawyers have been permitted to see the documents or security concerns on which these measures are based, as they remain confidential under the Emergency Statutes.

The undersigned organizations express their solidarity with Makhoul and Ittijah and wholly condemn measures whose goal is to repress Palestinian organizations and defenders of Palestinian rights.

We urge UN human rights agencies and EU institutions to intervene with the Israeli authorities to secure the immediate, unconditional release of Makhoul, put an end to arbitrary interventions based on Emergency Statutes used to repress human rights defenders or harass them and their associations, and compel the Israeli authorities to uphold the recognized rights of human rights defenders, as elaborated under the declaration on the protection of human rights defenders, passed by the UN General Assembly in December 1998.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Non-IFEX signatories

Alkarama Foundation in Beirut
Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Rights Support
Arab Human Rights Defenders Union
Arab Network for Human Rights Information
Arab Penal Reform Organization
Association for Human Rights Legal Aid
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
Commission on Human Rights Society of Jurists
Committees for the Defense of Democracy, Freedoms, and Human Rights in Syria
Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies
Egyptian Child Rights Center
Hesham Mubarak Law Center
Human Rights First Society in Saudi Arabia
Iraqi Human Rights Organization in Denmark
Land Center for Human Rights
New Women Foundation
Palestinian Center for Human Rights
Palestinian Organization for Human Rights
The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Democratic Freedoms