Mohammed al-Halabi, the United Nations award winning Palestinian humanitarian worker, is still caged by Israel nearly five years after it abducted him on farcical charges of siphoning money from a humanitarian charity which he never had access to, and which according to the charity itself, and an independent audit by the Australian government, has never gone missing.
He was denied a lawyer and severely tortured for 50 days, yet he didn't sign their fake confession. They offered him a plea bargain of 3 years imprisonment, he refused on principle. Now after nearly 5 years of imprisonment, and 157 court hearings Israel still has not produced a shred of evidence against him.
Inminds chair Abbas Ali said "The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on everything from torture, to extrajudicial execution, to independence of judges, to human rights have all condemned Israel and demanded, barring a fair trial, Mohammed al-Halabi's unconditional release. Yet Israel has been allowed to ignore the United Nations with total impunity. Why is it business as normal with Israel when it blatantly ignores the rule of law? Where are the sanctions? Why has Mohammed al-Halabi been forgotten, left to rot in an Israeli dungeon?"
To coincide with his 158th court hearing this friday 30th April 2021, Inminds has produced a short video on Mohammed al-Halabi in the hope of spotlighting his case. Please share widely.
SCRIPT OF VIDEO
Mohammed al-Halabi, a Palestinian father of five young children, is a UN honoured humanitarian aid worker in Gaza. He heads the Christian charity World Vision's Gaza operation. He has been imprisoned by Israel for nearly 5 years on bogus charges. This is his story.
UNICEF reported that Israel's brutal attack on Gaza in 2014, killed 551 children, injured a further 3,370 children, and made 54,000 children homeless. UNICEF further reports, that it left more than 300,000 surviving children in trauma, in desperate need of emotional and psychological support.
Halabi works with these traumatised children, creating safe spaces for them to try and rehabilitate them back from trauma. He also helps provide basic humanitarian assistance. Under his leadership World Vision provides for 40,000 children in Gaza.
In 2014 Mohammed al-Halabi was honoured by the United Nations as its "Humanitarian Hero". In an interview for his award Halabi was asked what was his most memorable experience during his work.
He replied :
"One of the children in our programs in 2009 had lost two of her young cousins and her hair was burnt after a white phosphorous bomb had fallen on her home. She was severely traumatized, was isolated in her room and was not talking to anyone. A few months after she joined our programs, she became a leader for a group of children and I met her while she was educating them about child rights, and singing for peace. I was so touched with the experience, and will never forget the happiness I felt at this moment. "
Halabi's world changed on 15th June 2016. Whilst on his way home to Gaza from a World Vision meeting in Jerusalem, Mohammed al-Halabi was abducted by Israeli soldiers at the crossing to Gaza.
He was severely tortured. Bound to a small chair, the Israeli interrogators beat him senseless. As a result he has lost 40% of his hearing. He was prevented from seeing his lawyer. They wanted him to sign a fabricated confession that he had diverted $50 million from World Visions humanitarian fund to Hamas. Despite the torture he refused to sign.
The accusation was preposterous, as World Vision International CEO Kevin Jenkins pointed out that no money was missing, and in any case World Vision's cumulative operating budget in Gaza for the past 10 years was only $22.5m! The maths didn't even add up.
The United Nations has condemned Israel over its treatment of Mohammed al-Halabi. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Ms. Agnès Callamard, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mr. Diego García-Sayán, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, Mr. Michael Lynk, have all issued a joint statement which, in part, reads:
"Israel's internal security service, Shin Bet, questioned Mohammed al-Halabi for 50 days after his arrest without allowing him access to a lawyer.. El-Halabi says he was tortured, deprived of sleep and hung from a ceiling during this time.. His lawyer says the Israeli prosecutor repeatedly offered him a plea deal, but he rejected it and maintained his innocence.. The international rule of law requires that an individual who is arrested must only be detained if there are reasonable suspicions that she or he has committed a recognised crime, and the charges and the evidence must be clearly laid out so defendants know what they have to answer. Comprehensive audits of the financial records by World Vision and by the Australian government, which donated the money, failed to turn up any misappropriation of funds or other wrongdoing.. We demand that Israel adhere to the requirements of the international rule of law.. Israeli authorities must grant him the full rights of a fair trial, or else release him unconditionally.."
Last month in March 2021 the Australian parliament deliberated that
"Despite 156 court appearances, still no evidence has been presented to substantiate the charges that have been made against Mohammed al-Halabi . Investigations conducted by our own Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, independent auditors, as well as World Vision itself, have all failed to produce any evidence that any money was ever diverted. "
In response to these facts, the Israeli foreign affairs spokesman Emmanual Nachshon simply replied it was irrelevant.
They have dragged him to court 157 times, and yet no evidence against him has been presented. Israel has ignored the demands of the United Nations, Halabi remains caged for nearly 5 years now. Halabi was offered a plea bargain of three years imprisonment. Five years later, he still refuses. For him integrity and honour, defined by the truth, are worth more.
The reality is that for Israel the facts don't matter, this is not about Mohammed al-Halabi, it's part of a carefully planned attack on humanitarian providers in Gaza.
A Save the Children staff worker, and also a United Nations Development Programme worker have also been similarly accused of similar baseless charges.
With Mohammed al-Halabi's arrest, Israel has frozen World Visions bank accounts in Jerusalem. This has forced World Vision, one of the largest NGO's working in Gaza, to closed down operations in Gaza, immediately putting at risk the the lives of the 40,000 children that it provides for in Gaza.
And the Australian government, which funded World Vision, has under Israeli pressure, frozen its donations pending the results of Halabi's trial.
Oxfam faced a $160m legal challenge for providing drinking water to Gaza. This was considered as providing material support to terrorists.
Not content with bombing children in Gaza, Israel is going after those children that survived the slaughter and those humanitarians who care for them.
Joel Charny, US executive director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said such "attacks must be seen in the context of the overall dehumanisation of the Palestinian people, and efforts to delegitimise Palestinian institutions, and ultimately erase the Palestinian identity itself.. while the threat to the NGO sector is real and concerning, it is the people of Palestine who as usual, bear the brunt of the impact."
In the meantime five children are without their father for nearly 5 years. Last week Mohammed al-Halabi's youngest son, 6 years old Faris admitted to his mother that he 'forgot the picture of my father's face'.
International pressure needs to be leveraged on Israel so that Faris can once again see his father. Protest, leaflet, and write to your representatives to raise Mohammed al-Halabi's case in your parliament, in your union, and other forums. Demand Israel unconditionally release Mohammed Halabi today!