International Effort Prompts Gazan Release

On Thursday 9th April, Gaza resident Rami Aman was arrested by Hamas. His crime? Organising online meetings with Israeli peace activists as part of a bridge-building initiative.

He was charged with “holding a normalisation activity” with Israelis, an activity described by a spokesman from the Hamas Interior Ministry as a “betrayal of our people and their sacrifices.”

Thankfully, his arrest came to the attention of international lawyer Hillel Neuer, who is the Executive Director of UN Watch, a human rights organisation. Neuer is also the founding chairman of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, a coalition of 25 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) from around the world.

Using his contacts, Neuer managed to gather a coalition totalling 70 NGOs to make a joint statement to a plenary meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council. He delivered that statement on 21st September in support of their legal demand that Rami Aman be released.

Hillel Neuer addresses the UNHRC

A video of their statement is available on the UN Watch Twitter feed.

That effort has now borne fruit. On Monday a Hamas-run court convicted Aman and two colleagues of “weakening revolutionary spirit” but ordered his release along with the other one of the three still held in prison.

Aman said he told the court that he was not calling for a normalisation of ties with Israel.

Aman and his colleagues were represented in the court case by lawyers from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), who said Hamas had “no legal or factual basis for a conviction” and the charges “lacked both factual and moral elements.”

The PCHR stated that Hamas’ policy of arresting peace activists violates the simplest principles of justice and the Palestinian’s international obligations.

Further, the PCHR noted that the law Hamas used was “unconstitutional and illegal” because it did not come from any approved Palestinian legislative body.