UN criticises Israel over ‘harassment and intimidation’ of Palestinian campaigner

Activist Issa Amro has campaigned against Israeli settlements in the West Bank for more than a decade

epa07357774 An Israeli policeman argues with one of the Palestinians wearing blue vests marking them as 'Oservers' during a protest against the end of the mandate for the civilian Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) in the West Bank city of Hebron, 10 February 2019. The protest was aimed at marking the removal of the international observers mission from Hebron and anniversary of the so-called Cave of the Patriarchs massacre by Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein on 25 February 1994, that initially led to the establishing of the TIPH.  EPA/ABED AL HASHLAMOUN
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UN investigators have criticised Israel over the ‘harassment and intimidation’ of Palestinian anti-settlement activist Issa Amro.

The UN human rights observers Michael Lynk and Mary Lawlor on Tuesday criticised the conviction earlier this month of Mr Amro, founder of the Hebron-based group Youth Against Settlements, saying they feared he would spend time behind bars.

Mr Amro, 40, is due to be sentenced on February 8.

The UN officials said his prosecution was politically motivated.

“This is part of a clear and systematic pattern of detention, judicial harassment and intimidation by Israel of human rights defenders, a pattern that has increased in intensity recently,” the experts said.

“Rather than prosecuting human rights defenders, Israel should be listening to them and correcting its own human rights conduct.”

Mr Amro was convicted on January 6 on three counts of protesting without a permit, two counts of disrupting Israeli soldiers’ activities, and one count of assault, in incidents between 2010 and 2016. He was acquitted on 12 other counts against him.

He regularly leads protests against Israeli settlement construction in the flashpoint city of Hebron, where, under heavy Israeli military protection, some 1,000 settlers live among 200,000 Palestinians.

“This conviction is part of a pattern where Israeli military law is used to restrict and penalise Palestinians for exercising their inviolable political and civil rights,” the UN rapporteurs said.

“The system follows a vague interpretation of offences and military orders fail to clarify what conduct can result in criminal offence,”

Israel's mission to the UN did not immediately answer The National's request for comment.

Amnesty International, a global campaign group, has also decried the ruling by Israel’s Ofer Military Court, saying the charges against Mr Amro were “politically motivated and linked to his peaceful work in exposing Israel’s human rights violations”.

Most countries describe Israeli settlements built on West Bank land captured in a 1967 war as illegal. Israel disputes this.