Trócaire is gravely concerned by the ongoing charges against Issa Amro, a Palestinian Human Rights Defender who faces charges under the draconian 2017 Electronic Crimes Law by the Palestinian Authority for his activism and hugely important human rights work in Hebron.
Issa Amro was arrested by Palestinian security forces on 4 September 2017 after criticising the Palestinian authorities on Facebook for arresting a journalist in Hebron who had been critical of President Mahmoud Abbas. According to Amnesty International, when he was released after nearly a week in detention he was told that his case was being frozen as the charges would be dropped and the case closed.
However, last month a Palestinian court in Hebron reopened his case in an apparent effort to intimidate him into giving up his ongoing work highlighting both Israeli and Palestinian human rights violations.
Mr Amro is a founding member of the Youth Against Settlements group, which seeks to end the building and expanding of illegal Israeli settlements through non-violent popular struggle and civil resistance. Trócaire has met with Issa Amro over many years and witnessed his work first-hand in the city of Hebron.
Trócaire has worked with civil society organisations in Israel and Palestine since 2002 but recent years has seen severe restrictions on freedom of expression imposed by the Israeli Government and Palestinian Authority in their respective jurisdictions. The prosecution of Issa Amro over a social media post critical of the Palestinian authorities is extremely alarming, as well as other reports that activists and members of Youth Against Settlements have been intimidated and have lost their jobs as a result of their human rights activism.
Protecting space and support for critical civil society organisations is an urgent priority at a global level and a fundamental element of any functioning democracy.
We welcome the fact that the Irish missions in Tel Aviv and Ramallah have followed the case, and that staff based in Ramallah have attended previous hearings of the case and we hope they will continue to raise the issue of Issa Amro’s detention, as well as the Electronic Crimes Law, directly in its dialogue with the Palestinian Authority.
However, Trócaire urges that all charges against Issa Amro are dropped in advance of his next hearing on May 22nd, and that Issa and his colleagues at Youth Against Settlements are allowed to continue their work, free from political interference and pressure, and longstanding campaigns of intimidation and harassment.
Irish comedian Deirdre O’Kane recently travelled to Gaza and the West Bank with Trócaire. Watch her video diary from her visit.