NGOs condemn Israel’s targeting of Palestinian human rights defenders

May 16, 2024

MENA Rights Group, Addameer and Stop The Wall urgently appealed to the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders (HRDs) following Israel's administrative detention and ill-treatment of three Palestinian HRDs, urging her to call for their immediate release.

Omar al-Khatib, Sumoud Mtair and Baraa Odeh. © Courtesy of Addameer and Stop The Wall.

On May 6, 2024, Addameer, Stop the Wall and MENA Rights Group petitioned the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders on behalf of Omar al-Khatib*, Baraa Odeh** and Sumoud Mtair***, three Palestinian human rights defenders imprisoned in reprisal for their engagement in protecting, defending and promoting Palestinian rights. 

Al-Khatib, Odeh and Mtair were respectively arrested on March 1, 5 and 7, 2024. Following their arrests, they were interrogated without the presence of a lawyer, imprisoned in inhumane and degrading conditions, and subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Al-Khatib is currently held in Naqab prison, while Odeh and Mtair are in Damon prison. All three are being held in administrative detention, i.e., detention without charge or trial.

In their UN submission, the NGOs highlighted the Israeli authorities’ failure to uphold their international obligations with regard to the treatment of these three human rights defenders. They specifically pointed out violations of the rights to freedom of expression, to the security of a person, and to be free from torture.

The human rights abuses against these three human rights defenders are being committed in the context of Israeli authorities’ systemic oppression and incarceration of Palestinians through a penal system characterised by the UN as “ripe for abuse and maltreatment”

Israel’s systemic use of administrative detention against Palestinians has worsened since the start of the October 7 onslaught, with 80% of arbitrary arrests leading to administrative detention. As a result, over 3,600 Palestinians are currently held in administrative detention. However, the total number of Palestinian prisoners is much higher. As reported by Addameer in April 2024, 9,500 Palestinian political prisoners have been detained by Israeli forces. Held in inhumane conditions, at least 18 detainees from the West Bank and 27 from Gaza have died in detention.

This pervasive practice was detailed as one of the incriminating elements against Israel in the case of the South African application instituting proceedings at the International Court of Justice under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip. 

In March 2024, the UN Human Rights Council urged for “an end to all ongoing policies of harassment, threats, intimidation and reprisals, detention and expulsion against human rights defenders, journalists, media workers and civil society actors who peacefully advocate for the rights of the Palestinian people”, called for their protection, and underscored “the need to investigate all such acts and to ensure accountability and effective remedies”. 

In line with these recommendations, the undersigned organisations strongly condemn Israel’s illegal targeting of Palestinian human rights defenders through arbitrary arrests, administrative detention, torture and ill-treatment, under the pretext of “security”. 

In their petition, the NGOs called for the immediate and unconditional release of al-Khatib, Odeh, and Mtair, along with the release of all Palestinian human rights defenders and political prisoners. They urged Israel to halt the widespread use of arbitrary detention, including administrative detention, and to immediately cease any practices of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Additionally, the NGOs urged Israeli authorities to grant Palestinian detainees access to legal representation as well as visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross to assess detention conditions. 

Lastly, the NGOs recalled the recent Resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, and requested the intervention of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, notably to monitor “direct and indirect transfer or sale of arms, munitions, parts, components and dual use items to Israel, the occupying Power”, and to “analyse the legal consequences of these transfers”. They also reiterated the UN Human Rights Council’s calls on all states to refrain from the “export, sale or transfer of arms, munitions, and other military equipment”, in accordance with their obligations under international law. 


*Omar al-Khatib is an anti-colonial activist who has worked as a research partner for the Institute of Development Studies. Al-Khatib has been particularly outspoken against Israel's systematic oppression of the Palestinian people.

**Baraa Odeh worked for the “Strengthening Youth for the Stabilisation of Palestine” project implemented by the German Development Cooperation, where she contributed to providing safe spaces for Palestinian youth, improving their social life, and strengthening their psychological well being. She particularly dedicated herself to addressing their mental health needs from the onset of Israel’s war on Gaza since October 7, 2023.

***Sumoud Mtair is active in the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall), which aims to dismantle Israel’s illegal wall in the West Bank, to achieve Palestinian self-determination, and to promote Palestinian rights at the local, national and international levels.



Addameer prisoner support and human rights association is a Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution that works to support Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons. 

Stop the Wall, or the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, is a Palestinian non-governmental organisation which aims to dismantle Israel’s illegal wall in the West Bank, to achieve Palestinian self-determination, and to promote Palestinian rights  at the local, national and international levels.

MENA Rights Group is a Geneva-based legal advocacy NGO defending and promoting fundamental rights and freedoms in the Middle East and North Africa region.

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