Please note: As of Monday, 11 December, the three lawyers were released after one week in interrogation.
The National Lawyers Guild expresses its strongest condemnation of the latest illegal and dangerous declaration of U.S President Donald Trump purporting to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli state. This move seeks to legitimize occupation and undermine Palestinian fundamental rights at the highest level. It seeks to legitimize an unlawful Israeli occupation and annexation of Jerusalem and blatantly violates the U.S.’ obligations under the Geneva Conventions and the UN Charter to recognize and abide by international law.
This comes hand in hand with other blatant U.S. violations of international law and clearly exposes that the U.S. is not now – and in reality, never has been – an “honest broker” for peace in occupied Palestine. This action does not stand alone and intersects directly with growing Israeli repression in occupied Jerusalem, including home demolitions, stripping of Jerusalem IDs as well as frequent arrests of children and youth.
It also includes an ongoing attack on Palestinian lawyers and human rights defenders, including the arrest on Monday, 4 December of three prominent Palestinian lawyers engaged in defending Palestinian human rights in Jerusalem and throughout occupied Palestine.
The three lawyers are: Khaled Zabarqa, prominent lawyer and the representative of imprisoned Sheikh Raed Salah, a political and religious leader; Eyad Mesk, the legal director of the Prisoners’ and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs Commission; and Firas al-Sabbah, the general director of al-Meethaq Center for Human Rights, which provides legal advice centers for Palestinian Jerusalemites and monitors the detention of Palestinian children.
All three were taken from their homes in pre-dawn raids in Lydd and Jerusalem on Monday, 4 December, and taken to the Petah Tikva interrogation center. They remained detained today.
The arrest of Zabarqa, Mesk and al-Sabbah comes as only the latest arrest of Palestinian human rights defenders by Israeli forces. Indeed, human rights defenders have been repeatedly subject to arrest, imprisonment and administrative detention without charge or trial. Currently, human rights defenders like Hasan Safadi, Salah Hamouri, and Khalida Jarrar are held without charge or trial in Israeli prisons under administrative detention orders. Issa Amro, land defender in Hebron, faces military charges for nonviolent protests against settlements. Abdallah Abu Rahma, coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements in Bil’in, was subject to raids and arrest just weeks ago and remains jailed.
The arrest of these Palestinian lawyers appear to be an attempt to suppress Palestinian legal work to defend political prisoners and support Palestinians in Jerusalem and throughout Palestine seeking to defend their rights. We urge their immediate release and an end to the ongoing detention and imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians.
We also demand that Trump immediately rescind his dangerous, unlawful actions in relation to Jerusalem and stop his involvement in supporting ongoing Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. We must also note that this action there has been long-standing bipartisan disregard for Palestinian rights and international law within the U.S. Congress as well as in the presidency and requires a complete reorientation of U.S. policy to reflect the imperatives of human rights and international law rather than support for racism, apartheid and colonization.