Dora McPhee (VIC) writes to Foreign Minister Stephen Smith re Mohammad Othman 28Sep09 September 28, 2009

Dear Mr Smith,

I am writing to you to express my deep concern about the detainment of a Palestinian human rights worker, Mohammad Othman, on September 22, at the border between Jordan and the West Bank. He was returning from a visit to Norway and was arrested by IDF soldiers on the Allenby Bridge Crossing, the border from Jordan to Palestine. He is now being held in Huwara prison as a prisoner of conscience, arrested solely for his human rights work.

Mohammad Othman has campaigned with the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign against the dispossession of Palestinian farmers and against the involvement of Israeli and international business in the violations of Palestinian human rights.  Demonstrations which occur weekly against the Wall are the only peaceful means Palestinians have of protesting the continued building of this Wall on Palestinian land, which the International Court of Justice in its July 9, 2004 ruling deemed illegal. Reports of these protests rarely if ever make it to the media and are the protests are therefore ineffectual in stopping Israel’s continued building of the Wall,which violates Palestinians human rights and has caused untold damage to Palestinian communities.

Mohammad Othman’s village, Jayyous, has been devastated by the Wall and the illegal settlement, Zufim, built by Lev Leviev’s companies. These companies are facing a successful boycott campaign because of their violations of Palestinian rights. Mohammad was returning from a trip to Norway, during which he met with senior officials, including Norwegian Finance Minister Kristen Halvorsen in an effort to seek outside help to stop these violations. Norway’s national Pension Fund recently announced that it had divested from Elbit, the Israeli company which provides both Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and other military technology to Israel, as well as security systems for the Wall and the illegal settlements. As Palestinian human rights continue to be violated on a daily basis regardless of international law and UN resolutions which clearly uphold these rights, Palestinians have no other peaceful recourse than to seek outside help to bring pressure to bear on Israel to end its six decades of violation of their human rights. It has been five years since the International Court of Justice ruled the Wall must come down, that all structures supporting the Wall should be dismantled and that reparation should be made for the damage caused and still nothing has been done to put this into effect. Instead, as with the illegal settlements which continue to be built, fragmenting and deliberately making a viable Palestinian state impossible, Israel continues to build this Wall in open defiance of international law. The Wall contravenes international humanitarian and human rights law, including the Geneva Convention, and is part of an illegal system of measures that Israel uses to imprison, control and force into submission the Palestinian people whom it has illegally occupied for decades. Mohammad Othman should have the right to resist the denial of his human rights by peaceful means without fear of imprisonment.

While the charges against him have not been made clear there is every reason to believe that he is being detained because of his peaceful criticism of violations of international law by Israeli authorities and for his human rights work through legal organizations. Palestinians living under occupation are treated to a separate legal system from Israeli settlers who colonise their land, allowing the Israeli government to keep Palestinians in administrative detention indefinitely without proper charge. This in itself is a gross violation of Palestinian human rights and one of the apartheid practices of Israel’s occupation, as is the use of torture which continue to be documented by human rights groups.
I ask you to take all appropriate measures, including official inquiries and protests, to ensure Mohammad’s immediate and unconditional release. Furthermore, whilst being held, he should be protected from any form of torture or ill-treatment, and the conditions of his detention should fulfill the requirements of international law.

Thank you for your attention on this urgent matter.

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