GENEVA, Switzerland — Dozens of rights groups have filed a complaint with a UN expert panel over the five-month detention in Gaza of a Palestinian activist who organized a video conference with left-leaning campaigners in Israel.
The coalition of 70 NGOs said they had lodged a complaint with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to demand the release of peace campaigner Rami Aman, detained by Hamas in Gaza on April 9.
The Islamist terror group, which bans all communications with Israel, arrested six members of the Gaza Youth Committee, including Aman, the group’s founder, after they spoke to dozens of Israeli activists online.
They accused them of “treason” and “normalization” of relations with the Jewish state after the call, made via video conference service Zoom.
The call, part of a series of discussions dubbed “Skype with your enemy,” saw participants discuss their daily lives and expressed hopes for better leadership for both Israelis and Palestinians.
“Hamas’s arbitrary and unlawful arrest and detention of Mr. Aman for the crime of ‘normalization’ is part of a pattern of repression and intimidation against dissidents who dare to speak out against the authoritarian regime,” Hillel Neuer, who heads one of the signatory groups, UN Watch, said in a statement.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is made up of five independent experts. They have no power to compel states to follow their rulings and it can often take years before the panel reaches a verdict.
In addition to the complaint, the NGOs said Wednesday that they aimed to raise Aman’s case during the next session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which kicks off next week.
Gaza’s Hamas-run interior ministry said at the time of Aman’s arrest that “establishing any activity or communication with the Israeli occupation under any excuse is a crime punishable by law, and is treason against our people.”
Hamas, considered a terrorist group by Israel and most Western states, seized control of Gaza in a 2007 near civil war.
Since then, the Jewish state has fought three devastating wars in Gaza while maintaining a blockade on the coastal strip, arguing it must isolate Hamas, which is sworn to its destruction, and minimize its ability to import and manufacture weapons.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.