Patrick George Zaki: Egyptian activist jailed on his return from Italy

[Regeni embraces Zaki in graffiti on the Egyptian Embassy in Rome: “this time everything will be fine”]


In the early morning of February 7th, Patrick George Zaki, Gender and Human Rights researcher at The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) was taken into custody by the Egypt’s National Security Agency (NSA) at Cairo Airport and disappeared for the following 24 hours. Zaki left Egypt in August 2019 after winning an EU-Funded scholarship to participate in the GEMMA Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree in Women’s and Gender Studies. At the time of his arrest, he was a student at the University of Bologna in Italy.

Samuel Tharwat, his lawyer, told Amnesty International that Zaki was kept blindfolded and handcuffed throughout a 17-hour interrogation at the airport and then at an unknown NSA location in Mansoura. During the interrogation, Zaki was beaten and tortured with low-voltage electric shocks, while being questioned about his work on human rights and his residence in Italy. The day after, Zaki appeared before the Public Prosecutor in Mansoura and was presented by the police with a report which falsely claimed that he was arrested at a checkpoint in his hometown, pursuant to an outstanding warrant issued in September 2019.

He was accused of publishing rumours and false news that aim to disturb social peace and sow chaos; inciting protests without permission from the relevant authorities with the aim of undermining state authority; calling for the overthrow of the state; managing a social media account that aimed to undermine social order and public safety; inciting violence and terrorist crimes. With these accusations, the Prosecutor ordered his detention for the following 15 days to allow further investigations. On February 12th, Zaki’s lawyer registered a leave to appeal, which was then accepted by the Mansoura Prosecution.  The date for the hearing of the appeal was set on February 15th, but the Mansoura II Misdemeanours Appeals Court rejected the appeal, re-confirming Zaki’s detention until February 22nd. On this date, he will be standing in front of the Prosecutor again. Every allegation of torture has been denied by Egypt’s top Prosecutor. As the accusations pending on him include terrorism, at the moment Zaki could risk a life sentence.

Since his arrest, Amnesty International has called for Zaki’s unconditional and immediate release. In the following days, the University of Bologna established a crisis group to work with government authorities, including the University’s minister and the Italian Embassy in Cairo. The Rector of the University of Bologna called the student community to join the demonstration for his release, while the Mayor of Bologna promised him a honorary citizenship after his return. Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement: “They must open an independent investigation into the torture he has suffered and urgently ensure his protection. […] The authorities’ arbitrary arrest and torture of Patrick Zaki is yet another example of the state’s deep-rooted repression of perceived opponents and human rights’ defenders, which reaches more audacious levels with each passing day.” Demanding an end to the continued harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights professionals, members of civil society and journalist, EIPR claimed that since October 2019 six of its staff members have been temporarily detained and interrogated.

Despite the fact that broad media visibility is somehow protecting Zaki from further abuses by the NSA, on an international scale the case is highlighting the weaknesses of EU institutions and EU members. The Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs has advised that “the Italian Embassy in Egypt is monitoring and making every effort”, but – to justify his refusal to withdraw the Ambassador – “the dialog with Egypt has to be maintained.” David Sassoli, the EP President, called for Zaki’s immediate release on February 12th in Strasbourg and reminded the Egyptian authorities that “EU relations with third countries rely on respect for human and civil rights, as confirmed by many resolutions approved by the European Parliament.” The High Representative Josep Borrell is expected to discuss the issue during the next Foreign Affairs Council.

In Egypt, the EP President’s speech was depicted as a threat to Egyptian sovereignty. “This statement has exceeded all limits and represents an assault on the sovereignty of judicial, legislative and executive authorities in Egypt” commented Soliman Wahden, Deputy Speaker of the Egyptian House of Representatives. Alaa Abed, Head of the Egyptian Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, also added that: “Egypt is fully committed to observing human rights in dealing with detainees and stands against exploiting this issue for political reasons. […] Such statements also discourage dialogue between the two parliamentary bodies because they were based on politicized organisations that lack credibility.”

Amnesty International said that the case recalled the murder of Giulio Regeni, a Cambridge researcher killed in 2016 while gathering information upon “politically sensitive subjects” in Egypt. After his disappearance on January 25th 2016, Regeni’s body was discovered in a ditch nine days later. His mother had said that the body was so disfigured that she could only recognize him from the tip of his nose. Egyptian officials were accused of deliberately trying to mislead the investigations and cover up the researcher’s death. Despite the admission that NSA was monitoring Regeni’s activities, after four years still no one has been charged for his death.


Luca Nania

George Clooney: How Congress Can Help Stop the Killing in Sudan

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George Clooney and John Prendergast are Co-Founders of The Sentry (, which follows the dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers and seeks to shut those benefiting from violence out of the international financial system.

Traveling throughout the Sudanese region of Darfur and neighboring refugee camps during the mid-2000s, we saw firsthand evidence of the monster the Sudanese regime had built to carry out a genocide. The government organized, armed and deployed militias, known then as the “Janjaweed,” alongside the regular army as the primary instruments of its killing machine. Ethnic cleansing and mass rape were the Janjaweed’s weapons of choice.

Fast forward to the present: Massive peaceful protests that erupted throughout Sudan in mid-December led to the removal in April of Sudan’s 30-year dictator, Omar al-Bashir. In May, the protesters’ leadership and the military leaders who assumed power after the coup reached a tentative deal to establish civilian rule in the country, agreeing on a three-year transition to democratic elections and granting power to civilian-controlled institutions. Massive peaceful protests continued during and after the negotiations, as demonstrators kept pushing to dismantle the violent, undemocratic kleptocratic system built up during al-Bashir’s reign.

But there was one big problem with the deal. The big losers in such an arrangement would be al-Bashir’s allied generals, who had looted the country with impunity for 30 years, and the Janjaweed militias, who would no longer have free, lawless rein in their areas of deployment.

As a result, on June 3, Sudanese security forces spearheaded by the Janjaweed attacked a major protester encampment. Now known by the deceptively anodyne term “Rapid Support Forces,” the Janjaweed militias over the last few days have killed more than 100 unarmed protesters, dumping many bodies in the Nile River, as well as raping, whipping and robbing Sudanese civilians throughout Khartoum. Hundreds more are missing and feared dead. Janjaweed have raided several hospitals and assaulted medical staff. Internet and phone networks are blocked to limit communication. The regime’s military leaders cancelled the agreements it had reached with the protesters and instead called for quick elections that they will surely rig in their favor.

If this sounds like another hopeless African crisis, it isn’t. Sudan is a country that has unified Republicans and Democrats in Congress and successive administrations in Washington in defense of human rights and peace. Much more can be done now by the current Congress and the Trump administration—as well as allies in Europe and Africa—to create consequences for the leaders of the regime and the Janjaweed destroying and looting the country.

In 2016, the U.S. Congress passed an incredibly effective new tool to combat corruption and human rights abuses: the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the U.S. government to sanction human rights offenders and corrupt officials worldwide. Now, the leadership of both the House and Senate foreign affairs committees can formally request the Trump administration to sanction a list of Sudanese regime officials and their commercial accomplices who are most responsible for ongoing violence and state looting, starting with Janjaweed leader Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the vice chair of the current military regime. And instead of just sanctioning one or two officials individually, the Global Magnitsky authorities allow for the use of network sanctions, in which an entire network involved in human rights abuses and/or mass corruption can be sanctioned with much greater impact.

The Trump administration could build major leverage if it deployed available but unused policy tools. In addition to the Global Magnitsky network sanctions, the Treasury Department could issue an anti-money laundering advisory to thousands of banks around the world to be on the lookout for illicit financial flows that have come out of Sudan during the last year as the economy has imploded and the political crisis has escalated. Our own initiative, The Sentry, is gathering evidence on some of this illegal activity, but if the Treasury Department issued one of these advisories, as it has regarding Venezuela and Ukraine, it would suddenly enlist bank compliance officers globally in the search for stolen assets that are being laundered through the international financial system.

Freezing and seizing some of those assets—and blocking some of these officials from the international financial system—would be a major and unutilized point of leverage for peace and human rights. Diplomats file in and out of Khartoum, cajoling regime leaders into returning to the previous deal for a transition to civilian, democratic rule. But given the support the regime enjoys from Gulf states, Russia and China, it will take more than words to alter this deadly equation. By creating significant financial consequences for regime leaders and their commercial collaborators, diplomats from Africa, Europe and the United States will be able to to influence the cost-benefit calculus of Khartoum’s generals, who until now have looted and killed for three decades with total impunity. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy will be in Khartoum this week, and his diplomatic entreaties will fall on deaf ears if not backed by the unique power that U.S. Treasury Department actions can have over the kind of illicit financial activity that Sudan’s leaders have been engaged in for years.

This regime got away scot-free in committing genocide in Darfur and devastating the people of the now-independent South Sudan for decades. Al-Bashir might be out of power, but the same regime still rules, and the same Janjaweed militias are still committing atrocities. Today, the U.S. Congress and Executive Branch—along with the African Union and European Union—have a second chance to create serious consequences for serious crimes and to invest in high-level diplomacy to bring civilian rule to Sudan. There are plenty of reasons to do so. Resolving Sudan’s current crisis would prevent an escalation in the flow of refugees from Sudan, address the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, counter the activity of extremist organizations supported by the al-Bashir regime—and prevent another round of mass atrocities in a country whose suffering has few parallels globally.


Press release from CANVAS regarding latest developments On Illegal Crackdown of Zimbabwean Civil Society

“Nonviolence is a basic human right”

The Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) firmly condemns the illegal arrest of seven (7) Zimbabwean civil society activists on their way home from attending a training workshop organized by CANVAS in the Maldives from May 15 to 19, 2019. All of them have been denied bail so far. Six are remanded in person. The seventh person has serious health issues – she is remanded in a public hospital and denied the right to seek treatment in her preferred private clinic. Their names are George Makoni, Nyasha Frank Mpahlo, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Gamuchirai Mukura, Farirai Gumbonzvanda, Stabile Dewa, and Rita Nyampinga. During the workshop, the State-controlled newspaper, The Herald, published an article that falsely accused participants of plotting to unleash violence in Zimbabwe in a bid to overthrow the Government.

CANVAS would like to inform Zimbabweans and the international community that the charges against these activists are blatantly false. The charges include: “subversion”, “counterintelligence”, and “being trained in use of small arms”. The activists could face up to twenty years in prison for these charges. The workshop focused on advocacy and civic engagement capacity building such as: Developing Shared Vision of Tomorrow; Civic Engagement; Effective Communications; Protecting Privacy and Security; and Organizational Planning.

For a decade and a half, CANVAS’ mission has been focused on the fact that nonviolence is morally and ethically superior to violence, and more likely to produce constructive outcomes and build strong and stable societies.

The arrests clearly violate provisions of the Zimbabwean Constitution on freedom of assembly and expression, and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Basic universal principles of due process, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and conducting an unbiased investigation before arrest need to be upheld.

As long as the Government continues to violate the fundamental rights the constitution confers to Zimbabweans, it will not be seen by citizens and the international community as democratic or law abiding.

CANVAS calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to immediately and unconditionally release the seven (7) activists and follow the rule of law.

Participation in a workshop with a focus on peacebuilding and nonviolence should never be considered a crime, as the practice of nonviolence and peaceful assembly are fundamental human rights.

Mike Pompeo Is Needed in Sudan

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They deserve more U.S. support; Photographer: ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP

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A Small Spark of Hope for Democracy in the Indian Ocean

Maldives President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih participates in celebrations after winning the presidential elections on Sept. 29. (Ahmed Shurau/AFP/Getty Images)

From the genocide of the Rohingya, to the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in Nicaragua, to the surprising success of right-wing populism in Brazil, to the increasingly virulent strains of isolationist nationalism that have been taking root in eastern Europe, it’s a grim time for democracy around the world. But an unexpected source of hope has emerged from the Maldives, an island nation known for little more than its idyllic beaches and long history of authoritarian rule.

Since 2013, the reign of President Abdulla Yameen brought mass abuses of human rights to the Maldives: the jailing or exiling of opposition leaders, increased control over state institutions, withdrawal from Commonwealth, and widespread corruption are only the tip of the iceberg for the small, tropical country.

But on Sept. 23, over 90 percent of Maldivians voted in the first general elections since Yameen came to power five years ago—and voted overwhelmingly for the opposition, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party, who won after receiving 58 percent of the votes.

In 2008, after a 30-year-long period of dictatorship under Maumoon Abdul Gayoom—whose iron-hand rule of the island nation was characterized by a low tolerance for protests and any vocal opposition combined with a high appetite for nepotism and corruption—overwhelming popular support brought “Anni”—the popular nickname for former journalist Mohamed Nasheed—to power as the Maldives’ first democratically elected president. Anni was successful for the first three years of his presidency as he worked to combat radical Islam and mobilize the tiny island nation to become a leading global voice in the fight against climate change. But his term ended prematurely after three years when, after a coup led by parts of the judiciary and the military, Nasheed resigned after reportedly being held at gunpoint.

Key foreign powers quickly signed on to the new regime’s interpretation that this was a voluntary resignation; the governments of Britain, the United States, and India quickly recognized the new government as valid. However, Nasheed and his followers asserted that a coup had taken place and that he had been forced to resign at gunpoint. The Commonwealth met and concluded that an international investigation needed to take place, but no further action was taken to investigate the constitutionality of the regime change from an international perspective.

Just a day after the regime change took place, Nasheed penned an op-ed for the New York Times detailing his attempts to reform the entire governmental system of the Maldives and the struggles that he faced attempting to do so. He writes, “The dictator can be removed in a day, but it can take years to stamp out the lingering remnants of his dictatorship.” His words proved prophetic. At the next general elections in 2013, Abdulla Yameen (the half-brother of former dictator Gayoom) was elected, and the Maldives returned to old habits. Under Yameen, government funds were embezzled, peaceful protests were suppressed, independent media outlets were shut down, and political prisoners were jailed. Now it seems that the collective international community has finally exhaled in relief. The Maldives may, in fact, have a democratic transition of power. Yameen’s regime is finally over.

Recent history has shown that we cannot allow this positive development to cloud our judgment and lull us into a false sense of security. About 90 percent of the Maldives’ population voted in this year’s elections, showing an unprecedented amount of engagement in Maldivian democracy. The international community owes it to Maldivian citizens to keep watch and ensure a democratic transition of power occurs in November, and furthermore aid the new government in ensuring it can implement positive changes to ensure the longevity of the country’s democracy.

It is especially imperative that we pay close attention to the Maldives in the wake of this election, taking into account the lessons that we have learned through the forced resignation of Nasheed. The Maldives is a relatively small nation, and the apathy of the international community toward the continuation of its democracy not only hurts the country but has a negative impact on the entire world. Had it continued along its path as a democracy last time, thrusting itself into the spotlight as the first Muslim-majority country with peaceful transitions of power within its democratic institutions, and had the world not ignored this tiny island nation, the Maldives might have brought its institutions, expertise, and goodwill toward other countries in the region, maybe even setting the example, case study, and inspiration, and thus radically changing the context through which the Arab Spring occurred only three years after Nasheed`s victory in 2008.

Major media outlets have focused most of their attention on the geopolitical impact of this change, especially the fact that Yameen had been turning a country closer to China, while Solih’s MDP has always advocated for closer ties to the most populous democracy, India. But there is another very important arena in which the smallest Asian country can affect not only the region, but the world—the struggle for democracy.

The world should recognize Solih’s presidency as a beacon of light for other Muslim countries that have experienced similar issues in transitioning to power. Instead of ignoring the potential of the Maldives, we need to instead do our best to nurture Maldivian democracy until it is able to fully bloom—and this means that the international community must do its best to push the Maldives toward a few key changes. At least two avenues of reform are clear: fixing the judiciary and building a muscle of the civil society.

In Celebration and In Protest—Queer People’s Power in Turkey

An activist waves a rainbow flag in Istanbul, Sunday, July 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Despite Governor Vasip Sahin’s recent ban of the Istanbul Pride March, approximately 1000 people chose to participate in a rally on Sunday, both in celebration of their identities and in protest of the government ban. Police, dogs, and armored vehicles confronted the protestors, blocking off avenues and side streets, shooting rubber bullets, and attacking them with tear gas. However, protesters continued to march. Eleven people were detained and have yet to be released.

Prior to Sunday’s march, the organizers of Istanbul Pride rightfully identified the government’s ban of the event as discriminatory and illegitimate. In fact, the ban violated fundamental human rights and freedoms of expression and assembly. It also marks the fourth consecutive year of a ban of the Istanbul Pride March. This time, the government cited security reasons and public “sensitivities” as its justification.

Such violent government and police responses to the event may seem like a jarring regression from 2014, when the march had notable popularity, participation, and even some political support. However, starting in 2014, intolerance and oppression reemerged in the political foreground. Recently re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began repressing Pride marches in 2015 when he rose to national political power. In November of 2017, Ankara’s government banned all LGBTI-related activities, including the 2017 German gay film festival, “to ensure peace and security.” Furthermore, the 8th Trans Pride March was banned in 2017, although it did not deter activists from coming onto the streets.

Pride is a mechanism for visibility, and in Turkeya country with very few spaces for expression of queer identitiesthe march is an especially potent tool for empowerment and community-building. Therefore, despite the pain and violence which marred this rally, there certainly also was hope and survival. Indeed, as the event’s organizer articulated, “Like every year, we are here, on these streets. Our laughter, our exclamations, our slogans still echo in these streets.”

Hypocritical (Non-)Commitment to Human Rights Plagues White House

Avi Selk, Washington Post

The United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) on Tuesday amidst growing criticisms against Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policies. This move, which US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has defended as an act of support for global human rights, has aligned the United States with Eritrea, Iran and North Korea, three of the world’s worst human rights offenders and the only other countries that have refused UNHCR membership.

In the past six weeks, American customs officials have separated more than 2000 children from their asylum-seeking parents at America’s southern border. Many of these children are now housed in tent cities and converted warehouses, unable to see or communicate with their parents. In early June, the UN deemed these separations illegal under international law and called for their immediate halt. The US has since accused the UN of political corruption and incompetence and has withdrawn their membership from the Human Rights Council (HCR) as a whole. This decision is just the latest of many by the Trump Administration which disregard international treaties and human rights standards, setting an alarming precedent for the remaining years of Trump’s presidency.

Ambassador Haley endorsed the withdrawal, stating “the United States will not sit quietly while this body, supposedly dedicated to human rights, continues to damage the cause of human rights. In the end, no speech and no structural reforms will save the members of the Human Rights Council from themselves.” However, the US’ departure from the world’s leading humanitarian organization arguably limits, rather than enables, the country’s ability to positively impact human rights.

In her speech, Ambassador Haley cited unwarranted bias against Israel as a major reason for America’s departure from the HCR. However, this excuse is flat and unconvincing. The HCR’s programme agenda is made up of ten items, only one of which focuses on conflicts between Israel and Palestine. The remaining nine items cover a plethora of topics including xenophobia, racism, capacity building, and action. Therefore, the role of the HCR cannot be diminished to one of their agenda items, nor should its reports of a country’s human rights abuse necessarily be construed as political bias. In fact, attempting to reconcile one of the globe’s oldest and bloodiest conflicts is arguably the essence, and not a detractor, of a human rights organization. Furthermore, there are many countries that have maintained their membership in the UNHCR despite being politically-invested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is a testament to the insufficiency of the one-conflict rationale.

This is not the first controversial decision to have cast doubt on the Trump Administration’s commitment to protecting human rights. At the Singapore Summit last week, many activists were astonished to see that President Trump did not once mention Kim Jong Un’s atrocious human rights record; in fact, he praised Kim’s authoritative command of the Korean people, stating that when “he speaks his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.” Indeed, in showing complete disregard for human rights, the Trump Administration has aligned itself with the likes of Kim Jong Un, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Eritrean Dictator Isaias Afwerki in an unflattering reflection on the state of American dignity.

Increasing Hate Crimes against Journalists threaten Indian Democracy

Photo: Translation: ‘The government’s hand on the common man’s face’, Aseem Trivedi

A rising tide of intolerance threatens journalists in India. The killing of a journalist is not just a crime but also a human rights abuse as it stifles free speech and freedom of expression. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014, journalists have been facing greater threats from an increasingly polarized environment in India. From the death of Gauri Lankesh, a known critic of Hindu right-wing extremism, last September to the recent hate crimes against Barkha Dutt and Ravish Kumar, there is a lack of press freedom and a growing assault on constitutional and democratic values.

Complementing the death threats are increased instances of online abuse. In the case of journalist Rana Ayyub, a pornographic video with her face superimposed on one of the actors was sent to her. The case reflects on the problem of sexism in Indian society where threats of sexual nature are used to shame and silence female journalists. “Islamist”, “Jihadi Jane,” and “ISIS sex slave” are some of the epithets which have been hurled at Ayyub as she is one of the few female Muslims who speaks out against an alleged Hindu nationalist government.

While some journalists, like Barkha Dutt, have been able to afford enhanced security and get their houses debugged, many local and less affluent journalists face increased death threats while uncovering cases of corruption and local crime. Correspondingly, India’s ranking in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2018 has fallen two places since last year to 138th, augmenting the problem is the increased impunity of these murders and harassment. A Committee to Protect Journalists report has ranked India 13th in the Global Impunity Index, a list highlighting countries where the murders of the journalists are least likely to get justice.

Considering that academics hope that India will be the salvage of democracy, stifling free speech and providing impunity to murderers is threatening the very foundation of the country’s values. While members of the ruling government have not been afraid to showcase their disdain towards media outlets, what remains to be seen is whether the opposition holds the ability to capitalize on the many candle-light protests, demand better protection against hate crimes, and protect India’s democratic values.


Georgian Prime Minister Resigns Amidst Protests Against Corruption

Photo: Protest leader Zaza Saralidze speaks to demonstrators and journalists. Source: RadioFreeEuropeRadioLiberty

Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili resigned on Wednesday following several weeks of popular protest and political disagreements with Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream. Kvirikashvili has been prime minister since 2015.

Kvirikashvili stepped down in the midst of other resignations by global officials following protests condemning government corruption. On April 23 Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan resigned after 11 days of popular protest, as did Jordanian Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki on June 4.

The protests began on May 31st in reaction to the killing of two teenagers in December and the allegedly improper sentencing of their killers. According to protest leader Zaza Saralidze, whose son was one of December’s victims, the two subjects put on trial for his son’s death were not the real culprits, and those truly responsible escaped prosecution because of their relatives who worked in the Prosecutor-General’s Office. Protesters originally called for the resignation of chief prosecutor Irakli Shotadze; however, their demands grew into broader calls against government corruption after Shotadze’s resignation. On June 11, police dismantled protestor tents and detained several members of the political opposition.

Saralidze’s protests follow earlier demonstrations in May against excessive force used by police in anti-drug raids at nightclubs in Tbilisi.

In his resignation speech, Kvirikashvili stated that “we had a number of fundamental disagreements with the party’s leader” Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is the richest man in Georgia.  

Kvirikashvili went on to state that “today is the moment when the party’s chairman should have the opportunity to form a team on the basis of his own views.”

According to Georgia’s Constitution, Kvirikashvili’s resignation necessitates the resignation of his entire cabinet. The ruling party now has a week to nominate a new prime minister who will then be officially appointed by Georgia’s President, Giorgi Margvelashvili.

Death of Palestinian Medic Sparks Outrage and Investigations

Photo: Razan al-Najar’s blood-stained white tunic was carried by mourners. Source: AFP.


The death of 21-year-old Palestinian medic Razan al-Najar in Gaza has prompted international outcry and an investigation by Israeli officials. Al-Najar had been shot by Israeli Security forces as she approached the border fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel on June 1st.  Her death comes as hundreds of Palestinian protesters have been killed by the Israeli military near the border in a recent round of protests.

Al-Najar’s funeral procession on June 2nd drew thousands of Palestinians, including uniformed medical workers, who are in high demand after thousands have been injured or killed since protests began in March.

On Saturday, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator released a statement condemning the death of al-Najar. Three days later, Israel’s military issued a statement on Twitter calling her death unintentional and stating that “no shots were deliberately aimed at her”. A follow-up tweet stated that there will be an additional investigation.

The current series of protests in Palestine began in March, pushing for the end of an 11-year blockade of Gaza. Israel claims that these protests are staged by members of the Islamist group Hamas as a way to promote attacks against Israel by using women and children to storm the border fence.

As of June 5th, Israeli Security forces along the border have killed more than 115 Palestinian protesters. Although the international community has decried this excessive use of force, the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution on June 1st  that condemns Israel’s actions. The Trump Administration blames the protests on Hamas.

Furthermore, Al-Najar’s death comes more than a week after the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israeli responses to protests in Gaza. The power of the ICC investigations are limited, however, because Israel refuses to recognize the Court’s authority.

Despite Israeli and American allegations accusing Hamas of inciting violence, most protesters are unarmed. The rising number of casualties at these Friday protests therefore shows a concerning response from Israeli forces against widely peaceful protests.This excessive use of force at the border is part of a continuing trend against both Gaza and the West Bank. Despite a recent decrease in the total number of protestors due to Ramadan, the number of casualties has continued to rise.

Statements by the Israeli military also continue to equivocate peaceful protestors, small groups of non-peaceful protesters, and extremist groups. These mischaracterizations have been used to justify violent responses towards nonviolent protesters, resulting in unjust casualties. Nonviolent organizers should continue to promote non-violent methods in these protests and continue to condemn any violent response.