UN Watch released an email on Monday congratulating Amnesty International for breaking its four weeks of silence, and finally declaring courageous Gaza peace activist Rami Aman—detained by Hamas since April 9th for holding a video call with Israeli peace activists (see below)—to be a “prisoner of conscience.” Amnesty called for his “immediate and unconditional release.”
The move came in wake of a 4-week UN Watch campaign urging Amnesty to speak out—not least because the organization’s former researcher Hind Khoudary was the one who had pressured Hamas to arrest Aman, as reported by the New York Times.
Even as other activists and groups had spoken out in April for Aman’s release, Amnesty had refused to issue a statement, instead restricting itself to guarded and indirect comments, only given in response to media queries.
UN Watch’s campaign included dozens of tweets urging Amnesty chapters worldwide, senior staffers, and the organization’s global board chair to speak out for Aman’s release. Thousands of people shared UN Watch’s appeals and demanded answers from Amnesty chapters.
One week ago today: Hamas arrested Gaza peace activist Rami Aman for his Zoom call with Israeli activists. He has since disappeared.
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) April 16, 2020
Hamas-linked groups as well as the Palestinian Authority’s Women’s Affairs Minister, condemned UN Watch for calling out the pernicious role of former Amnesty researcher Hind Khoudary in reporting Aman to Hamas.
UN Watch welcomed Amnesty’s statement, but in an open letter (see below) expressed disappointment at the organization’s refusal to campaign for Aman’s release as it has done for other prisoners:
Dear Ms. Beamish,
You’re a lawyer in Toronto, and I’m a lawyer originally from Montreal. It’s in the spirit of our mutual respect for the rule of law and fundamental human rights that I write you today.
For 28 days, Mr. Rami Aman of Gaza has been rotting in Hamas prison for the crime of holding a video call with fellow peace activists in Israel.
For 28 days, we urged your organization to speak out—not least because your former Amnesty International researcher was the one who reported him. (For details, please see our newly published Timeline.)
Finally, after we tweeted and appealed to Amnesty nearly every day for the past month, yesterday the organization broke its silence.
Amnesty issued a statement declaring Rami Aman to be a prisoner of conscience, and called for his immediate and unconditional release. We welcomed the statement.
But let’s be honest with each other. The Amnesty statement buried Rami Aman’s name at the bottom, after expounding on four other cases of people who have already been freed. The statement enables Amnesty to say they’ve spoken out, even as they have essentially done but the bare minimum.
Amnesty’s statement also failed to mention the central role played by your former researcher Hind Khoudary in Rami Aman’s arrest, as reported by the New York Times—even though she had listed Amnesty International as her employer on her Facebook page where she posted vituperative attacks against Rami Aman, tagging Hamas officials to catch their attention.
Let’s be honest with each other. If Amnesty really cared about Rami Aman’s freedom, or for the cause of peace for which he has risked his life, the organization would be actively campaigning as the group knows how to do so well—with tweets, petitions, appeals, protests, and more.
For example, I remember how in January and February 2018, you dedicated your entire website home page (see above) to campaign for a Palestinian named Ahed Tamimi, who was detained for slapping and kicking two Israeli soldiers. She eventually pled guilty to four criminal charges, including assault.
I remember how you created posters, petitions, and graphics of Ahed Tamimi, and plastered them all over your social media.
So if you truly care about Rami Aman and his freedom, and for his right to life and to be free from Hamas torture, why do you refuse to do even a fraction of what you’ve done for others — some of them, to put it mildly, who were far less worthy?
Hillel C. Neuer
United Nations Watch