Free Ameer Makhoul !

Groups urge Clinton to intervene in case of jailed rights defender
Open letter, various undersigned, 29 July 2010

Jailed human rights defender Ameer Makhoul. (Adri Nieuwhof)

The following open letter was sent to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on 26 July 2010:

As human rights advocates and representatives of nongovernmental organizations working to promote internationally recognized human rights standards in the US and around the world, we welcomed the important message you delivered to the Community of Democracies in Krakow on 3 July 2010. We wholeheartedly agree that civil society is an essential element in a free nation and plays an important role in identifying and eradicating injustices. As you rightly noted, it was through the critically important work of human rights activists and civil society that the US was able to be put on the path of racial equality.

Because of the commitment you expressed in Krakow and that you have demonstrated during your tenure with nongovernmental organizations working on behalf of vulnerable constituencies, we wish to bring to your attention a troubling development not highlighted in your 3 July remarks. Particularly in the last six months, we have watched with dismay as both real and figurative walls close in on civil society and human rights defenders in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The most recent case of this is that of human rights defender Ameer Makhoul, an Israeli citizen and head of Ittijah — the Union of Arab Community Based Organizations. Headquartered in Haifa, Ittijah operates as an umbrella organization for civil society member groups working for the advancement of political, cultural, social and economic rights of the Palestinian minority in Israel. At 3:00am on 6 May 2010, Mr. Makhoul was arrested at his home, and both his home and the Ittijah office were searched and personal items, office equipment, documents and databases were seized. Mr. Makhoul was held for two weeks incommunicado while a strict gag order was imposed on the case, and while, according to his lawyers, he was subjected to torture including sleep deprivation and stress positions.

Three weeks after his arrest and detention, Mr. Makhoul was charged with espionage, contacting a foreign agent and other trumped up security charges. Mr. Makhoul denies the charges against him and maintains that his statements were obtained under coercion. His lawyers also contend that their meetings with Mr. Makhoul have been wiretapped by prison authorities. Not only is this a violation of Israeli law, it deprives Mr. Makhoul of a vigorous, unfettered defense.

According to Phillip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, “Ameer Makhoul is a key human rights defender, well-known for his civil society activism on behalf of the Palestinian citizens of Israel” and “his arrest and continued detention smacks of pure harassment, designed to hinder his human rights work.” Likewise, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint program of the World Organization Against Torture and the International Federation for Human Rights, has also stated that it seems that his arrest is only aimed at sanctioning his human rights activities. We believe Mr. Makhoul is being prosecuted for his human rights advocacy on behalf of Israel’s Palestinian community and especially for his nonviolent activism seeking to hold Israel accountable for war crimes and other gross violations of human rights.

Madame Secretary, in light of the following, we respectfully request that your office investigate the arrest, unlawful treatment, and detention of Mr. Makhoul and use its considerable diplomatic influence to bring an end to his arbitrary detention and to ensure that Israel, a leading recipient of US military and economic aid, comply with its commitment under US law and international legal norms. We also ask that the State Department call on Israel to cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in its investigation of the case of Ameer Makhoul.

We thank you for the leadership you have shown on the issue of the protection of human rights defenders and the pledge of the US State Department to work to develop initiatives that support civil society and strengthen governments committed to democracy. Please let us know how we may be of service to you in your investigation of the case of Mr. Makhoul.

Undersigned organizations:

National Lawyers Guild, New York, New York; Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, New York; International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Brussels, Belgium; Grassroots International, Boston, Massachusetts; Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, Olympia, Washington; Justice First Foundation, Inc.; CODEPINK Greater Boston, Massachusetts; Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions – USA; Jewish Voice for Peace USA; Resource Center for Non-Violence, Santa Cruz, California; UC California Hastings Chapter, National Lawyers Guild San Francisco, California; Citizens for Justice in the Middle East, Kansas City, Missouri; Chicago Faith Coalition for Middle East Policy, Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati Palestinian Rights Meet-Up, Cincinnati, Ohio; Corvallis-Albany Friends of Middle East Peace, Corvallis, Oregon; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network; International Solidarity Movement, Northern California; Progressive Democrats of America Israel/Palestine Action Group; Middle East Peace Advisory Committee, Middle East Peace Now – Minnesota; Middle East Peace Committee, Los Angeles, California; St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, St. Louis, Missouri; Free Palestine Movement; Utahns for a Just Peace in the Holy Land; Virginians for Middle East Peace; Coalition for Palestinian Rights-Minnesota; Way to Jerusalem. Washington, DC

Undersigned individuals:

Susan M. Akram, clinical professor, Boston University, School of Law*, Boston, Massachusetts; Huwaida Arraf, Esq., human rights activist; Ajamu Baraka, Executive Director US Human Rights Network*; Medea Benjamin, Co-founder Global Exchange and CODEPINK; Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies*, Washington, DC; George Bisharat, professor, Hastings College of Law*,University of California, San Francisco, California; Audrey Bomse, Esq., legal coordinator, Free Gaza Movement; Helena Cobban, owner and manager, Just World Publishing, LLC, Charlottesville, Virginia; Cindy and Craig Corrie, Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, Olympia, Washington; Jamil Dakwar, Esq., human rights advocate, New York, New York; State Rep. Rod Driver, president, Justice First Foundation, West Kingston, Rhode Island; Norman Finkelstein, writer and lecturer, Brooklyn, New York; Linda Frank, Tacoma, Washington; Elizabeth Geschiere, MN Break the Bonds*, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish, Nonviolence*, Stonypoint, NY; Julianne H. Gustafson-Lira, human rights activist, Houston, Texas; Najib Joe Hakim, San Francisco, California; Zaha Hassan, Esq., human rights advocate, Portland, Oregon; Nadia Hijab, author and human rights advocate, Washington, DC; Susan K. Jacoby; Jewish Women for Justice in Israel/Palestine, Boston, Massachusetts; Michael Lerner, editor, Tikkun Magazine*, Chair, The Network of Spiritual Progressives*, Rabbi, Beyt Tikkun Synagogue*, Berkeley, California; Marilyn Levin, United for Justice and Peace Coalition, Palestine Task Force, Boston, Massachusetts; Joseph Levine, Department of Philosophy*, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts; Peter Miller, human rights activist, Portland, Oregon; Jeanne Mirer, president, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, New York, New York; Dr. Nancy Murray, Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights, Boston, Massachusetts; Alice Rothchild, MD, co-chair, American Jews for Just Peace, Boston, Massachusetts; Azadeh Shahshahani, Esq., co-chair, International Committee, National Lawyers Guild, Atlanta, Georgia; Dianne Shammas, Ph.D., Laguna Beach, California; Richard Silverstein, Tikkun Olam, Seattle, Washington; Salena Tramel, Grassroots International,Boston, Massachusetts; the Rev. Richard K. Toll, chair, Friends of Sabeel-North America, Portland, Oregon; Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace USA; Peter Weiss, vice president, Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, New York; Mona Younis, Ph.D., human rights advocate, North Bethesda, Maryland; Hossam Bahgat, executive director, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; Dr. Kathleen Cavanaugh, Irish Center for Human Rights*, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland; Dr. Jeff Handmaker, Assistant Professor International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University*, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Bahey Eldin Hassan, general director, Cairo Institute for Human Rights, Cairo, Egypt; Dr. David Heap, Associate Professor and Graduate Chair, French Studies Dept. & Linguistics Program*, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada; Joseph Schechla, coordinator, Housing and Land Rights International, Cairo, Egypt

*For identification purposes only


One thought on “Free Ameer Makhoul !

  1. kruitvat Post author


    28 July 2010

    Ameer Makhoul’s defense team requests that the Haifa District Court stop all judicial proceedings against him until they are allowed a private and confidential meeting with him
    Makhoul’s defense team submitted a motion to the court on 11 July 2010, requesting that they be allowed to meet with their client confidentially, as required by law. His attorneys also demanded that the court stop all judicial proceedings against Makhoul until the authorities respond their requests. The lawyers have already made this request to the prison authorities, but no action was taken in response.

    On 1 July 2010, the legal defense team representing Ameer Makhoul, the director of “Ittijah”, a network of Arab NGOs in Israel, and a human rights defender, submitted a complaint to Attorney General (AG) Yehuda Weinstein to order a prompt criminal investigation into the use of a wiretap to listen into the discussions they had with him in prison following his indictment. In the letter, Adalah Attorneys Hassan Jabareen and Orna Kohn, and Attorney Hussein Abu Hussein argued that Mr. Makhoul’s constitutional right to consult with his lawyers privately and confidentially has been severely violated. They emphasized that since he was charged in court on 27 May 2010, he had not been allowed to meet his lawyers in conditions of confidentiality, as required by law.

    During this period, his lawyers visited Mr. Makhoul seven times in the detention facilities in which he was held – the Gilboa Prison and Kishon detention center. In these meetings, communication between the lawyers and Mr. Makhoul was allowed only via telephone, separated by a glass screen, or with prison guards standing next to the lawyers and Mr. Makhoul, listening to the conversation. The guards refused to permit the lawyers to meet Mr. Makhoul in one of the rooms allocated for meetings between lawyers and detainees, claiming that they were only for the use of criminal detainees and not detainees charged with security offenses. Instead the guards insisted that the meetings take place in rooms set aside for family visits. Mr. Makhoul’s lawyers were not informed that their discussions with him over the telephone were being recorded. They only learned of the recording from a sign in one of the rooms, which stated that all conversations were recorded.

    In the letter to the AG, the lawyers argued that every detainee is entitled to the right to legal counsel, not least, detainees facing criminal indictment. This right requires that meetings be held in appropriate conditions that enable direct communication between them. This means that they should not be separated, their conversations should not be recorded or listened in on, and it should be possible for lawyers to exchange documents relevant to the legal proceedings with their client.

    The lawyers argued that under the conditions in which their meetings with Mr. Makhoul took place, there was no possibility for them to discuss the investigation materials and evidence, that they did not have a chance to explain their legal strategy to Mr. Makhoul, and could not discuss issues related to the defense preparation with him, which by nature should be confidential. These conditions violate provision 45 of the Prisons Ordinance, which states that, “A prisoner is entitled to meet his lawyer in order to receive professional service. A prisoner will meet his lawyer privately, and under conditions that secure the confidentiality of discussions and documents that will be exchanged in the meeting, but in a way that enables supervision of the prisoner’s movements.” The lawyers also argued that the conditions were in breach of the Israel Bar Association Law and to the Evidence Ordinance regarding the confidentiality rules applied to lawyer-client consultations, and that wiretapping of such conversations is a criminal offence under paragraph 2 of the Israeli Wiretapping Law.

    During the last session, which was held on 13.07.2010, the court set the following dates to continue deliberations: 16 July 2010, 19 July 2010, 5 October 2010, 21 October 2010, and 28 October 2010.


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