23 April 2008
The High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel * The Committee of the Victims’ Families of October 2000 * Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
South African Officials, Lawyers and Human Rights Activists Offer Strong Support to October 2000 Families in their Struggle for Truth, Justice and Accountability
Shawqi Khatib, Chairman of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel: “I am very optimistic that we will succeed in our struggle for justice, especially after civil society institutions and other official figures in South Africa gave us their strong support in proceeding in this case. We chose South Africa as the first step toward implementing our decision to internationalize the October 2000 case because of its symbolic status and history.”
Tarab Yazbak, the mother of Wissam Yazbak from Nazareth who was killed by the Israeli police in October 2000: “Our meetings with the associations which represent the families of the victims of apartheid have given us the determination, power and spirit to continue in our struggle. Those families did not give up and persevered in their struggle for years. With their support, we know that we are not alone but are part of a wider movement in the world that is struggling for truth, justice and accountability.”
Professor Marwan Dwairy, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Adalah: “Just as the struggle against the perpetrators and architects of apartheid played a major role in changing the racist regime in South Africa, our struggle against the Attorney General’s decision compels us to expose the racial discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel by the police in the international arena, as well as the failures of the Israeli judicial system to hold the perpetrators to account for the October 2000 killings. Through our visit to South Africa, we are gaining the support of experienced legal experts and human rights organizations for assembling an international team of experts to help in advancing the October 2000 case.”
From 19-25 April 2008, a delegation headed by Shawqi Khatib, the Chairman of the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel, which includes eight representatives of the Committee of the Victims’ Families of October 2000 and five members of Adalah’s Board of Directors and staff, is traveling in South Africa to seek international support for the group’s demand for truth, justice and accountability for the October 2000 families. This visit marks the beginning of a series of international advocacy initiatives to implement the decision made by the High Follow-up Committee, the Committee of the Victims’ Families, and Adalah following and in response to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz’s decision to close the October 2000 killings cases. AG Mazuz announced in January 2008 that none of the police officers or commanders involved in the fatal shootings of 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel in October 2000 and the injury of hundreds of others will face criminal indictment.
Over the last three days, the delegation has met with and received strong support from members of and experts on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was established in 1995 and heard evidence from victims and perpetrators of apartheid; prominent law professors and lawyers from the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) with vast experience in the legal struggle against apartheid, such as George Bizos, the former lawyer of Nelson Mandela; and representatives of the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR), led by former TRC member Yasmin Sooka. These groups, together with organizations that assist the families of the victims of apartheid have offered their support and encouragement to the delegation in various programs and projects aimed at internationalizing the October 2000 case. Many representatives of these South African civil society groups have also emphasized that reconciliation cannot be achieved unless the truth is revealed and justice is seen to be done.
The delegation also met the Deputy Speaker of the South African parliament, the National Assembly, Ms. G.L. Mahlangu-Nkabinde and other members of the assembly on 23 April 2008. Ms. Mahlangu-Nkabinde expressed her condolences to the October 2000 families and her support for the just struggle of the Palestinian people and for the demands for justice and equality of Palestinian citizens of Israel. In addition, the Deputy Speaker stated her intention to organize a meeting between the victims’ families, the Parliamentary Committee for External Affairs, and leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) in the near future. She also presented Shawqi Khatib with the insignia of the South African National Assembly as an expression of solidarity with the victims of October 2000.
Islamic groups such as the Muslim Judicial Council, on which sit a large number of judges and lawyers with expertise in various fields, have also shown their appreciation and great willingness to stand in solidarity with the families in their struggle for justice, as well as to assist in the memorialization of October 2000.
The South African media has also shown very strong interest in the October 2000 killings case and the delegation’s visit publicized by the Media Review Network. Members of the delegation have given numerous interviews to South African television, radio stations and newspapers broadcast and published throughout the country during the last three days.
The visit is organized and hosted in partnership by South African organizations, the Foundation for Human Rights and the Legal Resources Centre - and Adalah.
The delegation is comprised of:
Mr. Shawqi Khatib, Chairman of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel.
From the Committee of the Victims’ Families (October 2000): Mr. Hassan Asleh, spokesperson; Mrs. Jamileh Asleh; Mr. Tarab Yazbak; Ms. Jamila Akawi; Mr. Abd el-Moniem Abu Salah; Mr. Ebrahim Jabarin; Mr. Fuad Ghanayim; and Mr. Abbas Zaidan.
From Adalah: Mr. Marwan Dwairy, Chairman of the Board of Directors; Mr. Mahmoud Yazbak, Board of Directors; Attorney Hassan Jabareen, General Director; Ms. Fathiyya Hussein, Administrative Director; and Attorney Orna Kohn.