ELDH statement for the release of Ahed Tamini

ELDH joins colleagues and comrades across the world in condemning Israel’s arrest of Ahed Tamimi and demanding her immediate release.

On 16th December 2017, Ahed and her cousin Nour crossed Ahed’s yard in the village of Nabi Saleh in Palestine’s occupied West Bank, approaching the Israeli soldiers who were standing at the gate. Ahed’s mother Nariman filmed as she told the soldiers to leave, and when they didn’t move, kicked and slapped them several times.

The footage went viral globally, and pro-occupation Israelis saw the ensuing praise for Ahed’s bravery as a national humiliation.

On 19th December Ahed was arrested and detained, and is now facing charges including aggravated assault, obstructing the work of soldiers, incitement and throwing stones. These charges relate to actions dating back to 2016 and carry up to 10 years in prison.

Ofer military court, where Ahed is to be tried, has decided she is “too dangerous” to get bail. She is to remain in prison until the conclusion of her trial.

Ahed’s cousin and mother have also been charged, and her mother remains in detention.

As lawyers for democracy and human rights, we note Israel’s use of the court system as an instrument of repression, intended to deprive Palestinians of any means to prevent the crimes and abuses that accompany the occupation.

The Tamimi women – like all Palestinians in the occupied territories – are to be tried in a military court where the occupation authorities have derogated their duty to carry out a fair trial. Ofer court has a 99% conviction rate due to practices such as interrogation without a lawyer, failure to exclude confessions obtained under duress, and encouraging Arabic-speaking prisoners to sign confessions written in Hebrew.

The detention of Ahed, who was 16 at the time of her arrest, flies in the face of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory. This convention reinforces the right to liberty in respect of children, underlining that children should only be detained as a last resort. In fact, detention of children is routine in the occupied territories.

A 2013 report by Unicef on Ofer prison, where Ahed is detained, details systemic mistreatment of minors including solitary confinement, denial of medical attention and intimidation, threats and physical violence during interrogation.

The day Ahed slapped the soldier was the day of a monthly march led by Ahed’s family to protest the occupation generally, and specifically the appropriation of Nabi Saleh’s water source for the benefit of a nearby illegal settlement. Her cousin Mohammed, preparing for the march, had climbed the walls of a disused building in the village to see if any IDF soldiers were inside. When he got level with the window an IDF soldier shot him in the face with a rubber bullet, leaving him in a critical condition. This was the news that prompted Ahed to approach the soldiers.

The above incident and subsequent escalation to Ahed’s imprisonment are emblematic of Israel’s consistent choice to pre-emptively quell resistance by any means necessary, rather than acknowledge Palestinian grievances.

The military courts were established when Israel occupied Gaza and the West Bank in the wake of the six-day war in 1967. They have remained in place over the decades while the army has ushered in a stream of settlers like those now enjoying Nabi Saleh’s water. These settlers, even when accused of assaulting IDF soldiers, are tried in civilian courts – and are often seen to attack Palestinians without fear of arrest or punishment.

Israel is attempting to normalise the occupation through settlements, creating new facts on the ground, while demanding that Palestinians like the Tamimis submit to a permanent state of emergency in which protesters are tried as terrorists.

In Ahed’s words, she continues to struggle because “every day I see settlers swimming, sitting and playing on my land while I’m afraid one of us will be killed.”

Ahed has an internationally-recognised right to resist Israeli aggression and fight for Palestinian self-determination. The soldiers in the video were on duty and trespassing in her garden. Any action she took to repel them, short of a war crime, should not be punishable by law.

We condemn Israel’s illegal and vindictive attack on Ahed, her mother and cousin. We demand that Ahed be released immediately and that charges against the three women be dropped.