Several news outlets reported today that a Hamas official addressed the UN Human Rights Council. The truth was more prosaic: Hamas representative Ismail al-Ashqar was invited to speak to a seminar on “Arresting Parliamentarians” organized by a Sudanese NGO. Al-Ashqar did not speak before the HRC plenary session, but rather to a virtually empty room, as the accompanying picture attests. Below are highlights of his testimony.
As you know, kidnapping parliamentarians is an anti-democratic and political crime. After the success of our union, the Israeli occupation forces took over 50 MPs as well as the president of our authority. It is an unprecedented use of kidnapping, and women MPs were also kidnapped. The kidnapping operation was a flagrant and clear violation against humanity and democracy and the immunity of parliament. From the first stage of kidnapping, not only incarceration, we thought these were political arrests. Their objective was to put parliamentarians in jail and to prevent their movement and stop them from assuming their positions.
These kidnapped MPs spent more than four years in prison, where they were tortured and humiliated because they were elected symbols. They suffered in jail and spent a long part of the Palestinian legislative authority’s term in prison. Kidnapping MPs is a crime still committed and used by the Israeli authorities, who are arresting new ones again: 24 were kidnapped. The president was arrested and tried and one of my colleagues specialized in administrative detention will tackle this issue.
During 2011 there have been more violations against the Palestinian people by the authorities of the occupying Israelis. I want you to notice, when we approach an agreement between Fatah and Hamas we have more violations and kidnappings. In 2011 Hamas and Fatah began a dialogue and 80 MPs were kidnapped. Many were arrested and kidnapped and then contacted the Red Cross. After a year and a half of detention, they were arrested once again. This is a clear violation. They were imprisoned, detained, and exiled, far away from their place of origin.
Fifty administrative decisions were taken against MPs, but these decisions have no judicial basis, no moral basis. They mean that anyone can be arrested, kidnapped, put into jail. The detention can be renewed and pursued. I was arrested twice. You can be arrested five to ten times without cause. These acts must be seen as crimes against human rights, they are a moral issue that must be tackled. They are a violation of democracy, and we need you to condemn this violation of international law. One man is 70 years old, was tortured, and now is still in prison. He is leading a hunger strike, and Israel is violating human rights and must be condemned for this. We will speak of principles of democracy and humanitarian law, and we must protect the Palestinian people.
Our presence is important because we defend our MP colleagues. We were arrested and detained, and the occupation authorities are still using these kinds of practices. We cannot organize elections if MPs are arrested. How can we organize elections? We cannot accept these double standards when speaking about democracy. We have democratic MPs from Palestine still in prison and detained. This is a dangerous case for humanity and we want to make our voice heard by all the MPs of the world. The UN Human Rights Council should hear this and stop the Israelis, and free the MPs urgently. This will give us a second chance to organize elections.
We have a new commission to defend the MPs who have been arrested. This commission is using great efforts to communicate with MPs around the world, to let them know that the MPs are undergoing illegal procedures when arrested. The European parliament has also spoken of this, and the Arab parliaments also condemn the illegal and immoral procedures done by the Israelis against the MPs. Israel for them is like a supernatural state that refuses international recommendations, not giving any importance to any human values. To them, the occupation is a superman that no one can condemn, and this is why the occupation still continues its acts of kidnapping.
The suffering of Palestinians is so great that to talk about it I need days and days. What do you think of people living under occupation and arrest? In the West Bank we have 550 official check points, and Gaza is blocked and there is no free passage. I came from the Gaza strip, and Geneva for me is nearer than Jerusalem. My colleagues cannot go to Jerusalem. For more than 20 years I could not go to Jerusalem. To tell you of the simple suffering we are undergoing, we have no immunity for any MP or for children and there are no moral principles. Israel rejects all human and moral principles, and people can do what Israelis want only.
I am an MP and I am here defending us. I am not representing Hamas, but the Palestinian people. Innovative illegal procedures for violating human rights are normal for Israel. What cannot be accepted is the fact that the international community does nothing about this. All my friends from Hamas and Fatah have a unified position. We have political divisions, a normal natural division, but this does not touch our main subject issue… the problem of the arrest of MPs.