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 Press Release

PCHR Demands an End to Politically Motivated Arrests



Date:20 October 2001

 PCHR sent a letter this afternoon to the office of the Palestinian Attorney General demanding the immediate release of the lawyer Yunis Al-Jarro and Doctor Rabah Muhanna, head of the Palestinian Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC).  Both are prominent political figures and leaders associated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).  PCHR considers these arrests illegal and demands that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) state the reasons for these arrests, inform the families and lawyers of the detainees as to their whereabouts, and allow them access to their relatives and to legal counsel.

 Mr Al-Jarro and Dr Muhanna were arrested by Palestinian police in the early hours of Thursday, 18 October.  Since that time, the PNA has refused to disclose their whereabouts to their families, or to allow them to see their families.  Over 48 hours after their arrest, they have not been produced before a judge in order to extend their period of detention, in further violation of Palestinian law.

 The detention of Mr Al-Jarro and Dr Muhanna is part of a campaign of politically motivated arrests of tens of leaders and activists affiliated with the PFLP by the PNA over the past several days in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  These arrests were carried out after the PFLP claimed responsibility for the assassination of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Ze’evi in a hotel in occupied east Jerusalem on Wednesday, 17 October in revenge for the assassination of PFLP Secretary-General Abu Ali Mustafa by Israeli occupation forces in August 2001.

 PCHR expresses its deep concern over the arrests of PFLP leaders and activists, carried out on the basis of political affiliation and in violation of legal processes.  PCHR calls upon the PNA to immediately release all of these detainees and to affirm the principle of the rule of law in protecting the rights of citizens.  Despite its cognisance of the pressure exerted on the PNA by Israel and the United States to carry out politically motivated arrests, PCHR warns of the danger of responding to such demands in a way that violates international human rights standards as well as relevant provisions of Palestinian law.  These arrests greatly undermine the development of democratic institutions and the rule of law in Palestine.

 Furthermore, PCHR warns against keeping those political detainees in custody under current critical circumstances, given that PNA installations are subject to frequent bombardment by Israeli forces.  PCHR recalls, in particular, the air strike on Nablus prison 18 May 2001 in which 11 Palestinian policemen were killed, as well as subsequent attacks on the police headquarters in Gaza city, Gaza prison, and other incidents.