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Palestinians look to EU for action on human rights

This posting has five brief news items
1) EU news: Mahmoud Sarsak in European Parliament; April 2013
2) UFree: UFree Network raises the prisoners’ issue at the European Parliament on the 65th anniversary of Palestinian Nakba; May 2013
3) CEPR: A European political delegation visits the Arab areas inside Israel; May 2013
4) CEPR: CEPR representatives meet with Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva ; March 2013
5) EU news: MEPs delegation calls on Israel to free Palestinian prisoners, April 2013;

Mahmoud Sarsak, centre, addresses a meeting at the European parliament last month

Mahmoud Sarsak in European Parliament

EU News
April 15, 2013

Mahmoud Sarsak – Palestinian football player, member of the Palestine national football team gave a talk in European Parliament on April 11th about the Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. Sarsak spent 3 years in jail under administrative detention, three months on hunger strike while imprisoned without trial in Israel. Sarsak was imprisoned in 9 detention centers and tortured and interrogated for 45 days. He was deprived of food and sleep, kept for a long time in an isolated cell with loud heavy metal music playing for 18 days. When falling asleep he received hot or cold water on his body… « All this for me to confess to things I didn’t do » he said.

At the end of his interrogation he was classified as « illegal fighter » – a category that didn’t exist before. For 3 years he didn’t see any lawyer nor family, he couldn’t write and receive letters either. « For them I was only a number and a number doesn’t have any rights. My number was 1220 » Sarsak concluded.

Mahmoud Sarsak is continuing in his efforts to highlight the issue of the Palestinian prisoners at the European political level. Several meetings were organised with the European Parliament to discuss the suffering of the prisoners including the harsh conditions they face inside the occupation prisons.

« This is not only Palestinian cause, it is also about human rights and international law. Palestinians are deprived of treatment when they are sick in prison. Two football players: Omar Abu Rouis and Mohammed Nemer from the Palestine national football team have been in prison for a year now without ever being charged of any crime » – he said

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and the Ministry of Prisoners Affairs a total of 208 Palestinian prisoners have died in Israeli jails since 1967.

Mahmoud Sarsak called on the European Parliament to take urgent action to free Palestinian political prisoners and put pressure on UEFA not to hold sporting competitions in Israel.

UFree Network raises the prisoners’ issue at the European Parliament on the 65th anniversary of Palestinian Nakba

Media Release, UFree Network Brussels
May 17, 2013

UFree Network to defend the rights of Palestinian prisoners raises the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on the sidelines of the European Parliament session held in Brussels on the 65th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba in coordination with the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR).

UFree praised, in its statement issued on Thursday, the European Parliament session to mark the anniversary of Palestinian Nakba for the first time since its occurrence.

The Oslo based Network stated that the session discussed at first the European Parliament delegation’s visit to the Palestinian occupied territories.

Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, chair of Palestine Land Foundation, has detailed during the session the Israeli massacres and ethnic cleaning against the Palestinian people since the Nakba. He also stressed that the Palestinian Right of Return will never be compromised, calling to stop arming Israel.

For his part, Dr. Arafat Madi, the Director of the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR), stressed the need to end the Palestinian refugees’ suffering by reinforcing the right of return of millions of Palestinians who were forcibly deported from their homeland.

Mr. Mohammed Hamdan, head of UFree Network, has presented the Palestinian prisoners’ suffering in Israeli jails and detailed the Israeli violations and discrimination policies against the detainees particularly the prisoners carrying the blue ID cards.

In a related context, Dr. Tareq Tahboub, the Assembly of Palestinian Doctors in Europe vice president, pointed out to the Israeli deliberate medical negligence policy against the Palestinian prisoners, calling for the formation of a European committee to check on the prisoners’ detention conditions in Israeli jails.

It is worth mentioning that the number of Palestinians arrested by Israel since 1967 is around 800,000, including 12,000 women and tens of thousands of children.

Around 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, including 14 women and nearly 230 children are currently held in Israeli jails.

A European political delegation visits the Arab areas inside Israel

May 12, 2013

The visit coincided with the anniversary of the Nakba.

A European Political and parliamentary delegation began its field tour in several Arab towns and villages inside Israel to examine the living conditions of Palestinians living inside the Green Line.

The Council for European Palestinian Relations (The CEPR) stated, Saturday, the 11th of May 2013, that the delegation’s visit coincides with the anniversary of the Nakba, It also pointed out that the delegation will do a series of visits and meetings in order to monitor the Israeli violations of the rights of the Palestinian population inside Israel and also to investigate the forms of Israeli racial discrimination against them.

Moreover, the statement added that the delegation, organized by The CEPR, has begun its tour with visits to the Northern Palestinian areas; specifically, the cities of Umm Al-Fahm and Nazareth in which the Israeli authorities are frequently demolishing Palestinian homes under the pretext of lack of license. In the northern city of Nazareth the delegation met with the Arab High Follow up Committee and a number of Arab Knesset members who briefed the delegation on the most important problems that face the Arab population inside Israel.

The delegation also visited the displaced villages of Al-Bassa and Baaloul to evoke the tragedy of the Nakba, which will be meeting its sixty-fifth anniversary by the mid of the month, when armed Jewish troops had forced nearly a million Palestinians out of their towns and villages before bringing Jewish immigrants to substitute them.

Furthermore, the Council affirmed that the EU delegation will continue its tour today in the southern Negev territories, in order to visit a number of Bedouin villages that are threatened with forced eviction by the Israeli authorities without providing any alternatives of housing. Not only do the Israeli authorities try to evict these villages, they also periodically destroy them. Nevertheless, the indigenous people of these villages, Bedouins of Negev area, rebuild them each time.

It is noteworthy that the visiting delegation will review what had been briefed in a report that will be submitted to the concerned committees in the European Parliament. In addition, the delegation will participate, on the mid of this month, in a discussion panel that will be organized by The CEPR in parliament.

CEPR Board of Trustee members Mazen Kahel, Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, MEP Alexandra Thein (German, Free Democratic Party), and CEPR’s Parliamentary Officer James Tuite.

CEPR representatives meet with Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva

Media release, CEPR
March 21, 2013

On Tuesday 20th March 2013, CEPR was welcomed by the EU’s Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. CEPR met with Commissioner Georgieva to present a report on our recent Parliamentary mission to Lebanon, and to discuss what the EU can do to assist Palestinian refugees affected by the crisis in Syria.

CEPR was represented by Board of Trustee members Mazen Kahel and MEP Alexandra Thein, and CEPR’s Parliamentary Officer James Tuite.

Around 455,000 refugees are registered with UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency) in Lebanon. As a result of the on-going violence in Syria, Lebanon has received over 30,000 additional Palestinian refugees. UNRWA is stretched beyond its capacity, and urgently needs additional funds to cope with this humanitarian disaster. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are politically marginalised, denied basic social and economic rights, and are trapped in squalid camps with limited and insufficient resources. Most refugees rely entirely on UNRWA as the sole provider of education, health and relief, and social services. CEPR expressed its concern that the plight of Palestinian refugees was being marginalised in the broader context of Syrian refugees. Commissioner Georgieva recognised these concerns, and assured CEPR that she would continue to raise this important issue within the Commission. CEPR also discussed what the EU can do to assist Palestinian refugees beyond providing additional monetary aid. Talks included; making it easier for students with scholarships to be granted visas in the EU, applying pressure on Lebanon to ease Palestinian housing restrictions and to allow Palestinian refugees to work (they are currently prohibited from working outside the camps and in over 70 professions), and what the EU can do to protect Palestinians inside Syria. CEPR’s full report on its February delegation to Lebanon can be found on our website. A briefing paper on Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan is also available.

MEPs delegation calls on Israel to free Palestinian prisoners

By Euronews
April 29, 2013

A delegation from the European Parliament has joined calls for the immediate release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

It coincided with recent protests in the West Bank and a two-day international conference entitled “Freedom and Dignity”, held in Ramallah.

The meeting focused on the case of a Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, who has spent 11 years behind bars. He was convicted of murder by an Israeli court in 2004.

“Over the past 11 years, we have noticed an important change concerning the European position and especially within the European Parliament, European countries’ (national) parliaments, and also among civil institutions and European human rights organisations. We note this as a positive change,” said Fadwa Barghouti, his wife and lawyer.

Barghouti recently acccused the Palestinian Authority of not doing enough to secure his release.

He has been quoted as saying that new negotiations with Israel would be a waste of time.

He commands widespread support among all Palestinian factions.

Speaking from Ramallah, euronews correspondent Mohammed Shaikhibrahim said:

Local efforts accompanied by an international campaign are ongoing to free the Palestinian prisoners in line with international agreements and in the first instance the Geneva accords; and this is aimed at relaunching the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis – since the prisoners issue is considered as unresolved between the two sides.

Kristalina Georgieva is a Bulgarian economist; she joined the EC as a Commissioner in 2010, and is Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. She is affiliated with the European People’s Party, the centre-right EU grouping.

CEPR, About us

from their website
The Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR) is an independent not-for-profit organisation which has been established to promote dialogue and understanding between European, Palestinian and Arab parliamentarians and policy-makers. It seeks a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on justice and the restoration of Palestinian rights in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law.

Aims and Values
Peace based on justice and the restitution of Palestinian rights
Respect for international law, the United Nations Charter, UN Resolutions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
A more robust EU foreign policy to the Occupied Palestinian Territories that will promote and defend Palestinian rights and self-determination
Inter-governmental dialogue to facilitate diplomacy and a greater understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Our Mission
To strengthen European-Palestinian relations and provide greater understanding of Palestinian issues for legislators and policy-makers
Develop Europe’s role in promoting and defending Palestinian rights
Facilitate parliamentary delegations and dialogue between governments and policy-makers across Europe and the Arab world
Produce accurate, up-to-the-minute research and reports to highlight the situation confronting Palestinians.

Our Work
The CEPR organises delegations of European parliamentarians and policy-makers to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories and neighbouring countries which host Palestinian refugees. This enables delegates to witness at first-hand the situation confronting Palestinians and to gather information so that they can pursue policy changes from an informed and evidence-based perspective.

The CEPR is funded by individual donations from around the world in compliance with Belgian and UK legal requirements. It does not accept funds from any individuals or bodies whose objectives are inimical to the interests of peace and justice.

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