(NEW YORK) – Amnesty International today repeated its demand that Israel release Palestinian activist and scholar, Ahmed Qatamesh, who has been held without charge for two years – after his administrative detention was extended for the sixth time without justification.
Qatamesh, 63, who Amnesty International believes is being detained to deter political activities by other Palestinian left-wing activists, was told Thursday that he would be held for at least another four months beginning on April 29.
“Ahmed Qatamesh is a prisoner of conscience who is being detained solely for expressing non-violent political beliefs,” said Amnesty International's Ann Harrison, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa program. “His continued detention is arbitrary and he must be immediately and unconditionally released.”
Qatamesh is one of about 160 Palestinians currently held by Israel under administrative detention orders. These allow for indefinite detention on the basis of secret evidence that the military prosecution withholds from the detainee and their lawyer, denying detainees the basic right to defend themselves.
“The cruel nature of administrative detention means detainees and their families live in a constant state of uncertainty,” said Harrison. “As each order expires, their hopes are raised and then dashed as they are handed a fresh order.”
Qatamesh's wife, a board member of local NGO Addameer, told Amnesty International this week that it "would have been easier" for the family if her husband had been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.
Ahmad Qatamesh is a political writer who has called for a one state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is no apparent reason to hold him, and since his arrest he has not been charged or brought to trial.
Qatamesh's ordeal began on April 21, 2011, when he was arrested from his brother’s house in Ramallah by Israeli security forces. His daughter said that the forces ordered her at gunpoint to call him after they failed to find him at his own home.
Since then, Qatamesh has been questioned for a mere 10 minutes by the Israel Security Agency (ISA). However, they claim that he is a member of the political wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and poses a security threat despite the fact that Qatamesh says he has not been involved with the PFLP for 14 years (he was a political and intellectual supporter in the 1990s).
“I am under arrest now and don't know why,” Qatamesh said in June 2011.
Palestinians in the occupied West Bank face huge obstacles in obtaining permits to visit relatives in detention even though the Geneva Convention stipulates that individuals under occupation should be held within the occupied territory.
Qatamesh’s wife says he has suffered from undiagnosed ailments causing nausea and faintness – but his request to see an independent doctor has been refused by prison authorities.
"The Israeli government must stop the use of administrative detention and release all administrative detainees unless they are promptly charged with internationally recognizable offences and tried in accordance with international fair trial standards," said Harrison.
Qatamesh was held without charge for over five years in the 1990s. After his release in 1998, he wrote about his experiences – including being subjected to torture – in a book entitled ‘I Shall Not Wear Your Tarboosh.’
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists, and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.