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The Right to Education Campaign would like to thank all of those who supported our call to action for the student Omar Qassis who was taken from his home in March 2008 and detained under Administrative Detention – a system of incarceration without charge, where secret evidence from the Israeli General Security Services (GSS) is shown to a military judge and used to justify incarceration for up to 6 months on a renewable basis.
Omar’s release date was 31st July 2008. However, in late July the Israeli army issued another Administrative Detention order instead. This order was challenged by his lawyer in the military court and the judge upheld the appeal: the order could not be issued without there being new evidence to justify the claim of ‘security threat’ alleged by the GSS. The army had until mid-September to provide fresh evidence or simply overrule this judge’s decision. They did neither.
Omar is due to be released on 30th September, 2008.
We believe that the support we had from journalists, Members of the Knesset, academics and members of the public who wrote letters to various institutions dennouncing Omar’s detention, played a role in the positive result we had on the case. It is not unusual for the Israeli army to overrule the judge’s request for new evidence – see the case of Obaidah in Defense for Children International – Palestine Section’s website.
However, Omar’s ordeal with the military courts is not yet over. He was charged with throwing stones sometime between 2001 and 2002, to which he pleaded ‘not guilty’. The charge of throwing stones does not involve a specific day, making it very dificult for Omar to provide an alibi and refute the allegations. He is also being tried retroactively for something he allegedly committed as a 16-year-old, which under international standards means he was a child, however the Israeli military law treats 16-year-old Palestinians as adults.
We will keep you informed about this case as it can reveal the extent to which the military court system is prejudiced against the basic civil rights of Palestinians.
For more information on the rights of Palestinian prisoners, please visit the website of Addameer: Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. Addameer provides legal representation for Omar Qassis and other Birzeit University students.