on the occasion of the 11th anniversary of Marwan Barghouthi’s arrest
In 2013, on the 11th anniversary of Marwan Barghouthi’s arrest, the Popular Campaign for the freedom of Marwan Barghouthi and all prisoners organised an International Conference entitled “Freedom & Dignity”, convened based on an invitation by the National Leadership Committee composed of leaders from all Palestinian political groups and national figures. The event took place in Ramallah, Palestine, on the 27th of October, to coincide with South Africa’s Freedom day.
A dual approach was adopted aiming at ensuring comprehensive and global participation, i.e. the participation of representatives from official and non-official levels from the different continents.
120 international delegates took part in the meeting, including:
- Ahmed Kathrada, historical figure of the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa and ANC leader, initiator of the Release Mandela Campaign before being himself imprisoned for 26 years including 18 on Robben Island, elected upon his release Member of Parliament and appointed advisor for Parliamentary Affairs of President Mandela.
- Around 40 parliamentarians and former parliamentarians from:
- The President of the European Parliament mandated his Vice-President to take part in the Meeting, and sent a letter of support. The European Parliament also sent a multinational (Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland) cross-party delegation from the European Parliament Delegation for relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council, as well as the Vice-Chair of the Middle East Working group.
- A cross-party delegation from Greece, mandated by the President of the Greek Parliament
- The Vice-President of the EU Committee in the Swedish Parliament
- Former Parliamentarians, from the European Parliament (Vice-President, Chairs of delegations and political groups)
- A cross-party delegation from Brazil
- The Chair of the Inter-parliamentary delegation Argentina-Palestine
- The Vice-Chair and a prominent member of the Inter-parliamentary delegation Chile-Palestine
- A prominent member of the Parliament of Uruguay
- Human rights figures, including
- The President of the International Federation for Human rights, which comprises 160 branches around the world
- The President of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, which comprises 80 branches
- Prominent lawyers and international law experts from Spain, Chile, Greece
- Representatives of Solidarity Movements, including
- A multi-association delegation from France
- A delegation from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign from the UK
- Representatives from French local authorities who granted Marwan Barghouthi honorary citizenship
It should also be noted that many Ambassadors and Consuls present in occupied Palestine attended the Opening Ceremony.
Finally, the coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which has done extraordinary work in denouncing Israeli violations and third party responsibilities, was denied entry by Israeli authorities.
This wide, high level and diverse international presence was matched by strong Palestinian participation, including:
- A video message from President Mahmoud Abbas who was not present in the country at the time of the International Meeting
- Representatives of the PLO Executive Committee and prominent figures from Palestinian political parties and parliamentary blocs
- Prime Minister Fayyad and members of the Palestinian government
- National figures
- Governors, former Governors, Mayors and former Mayors
- Representatives of Human Rights organisations
- Civil society organisations and popular committees
This strong Palestinian participation over the period of the Conference gave a clear indication of the level of commitment towards the issue of prisoners as a unifying issue and a priority at both the official and non-official levels.
Messages of support
A very important indicator of the international support enjoyed by the Meeting were the messages of support sent by eminent persons who were unable to attend. These included:
- A video message by Jimmy Carter, former US President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
- A letter by Nabil El Arabi, Secretary General of the Arab League
- A letter by Hubert Védrine, former French Foreign Minister
- A video message by Federico Zaragoza, former Director General of UNESCO
- A video message and a letter by Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
- A video message by Angela Davis, icon of the US civil rights movement, and former political prisoner
- A letter by Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, Vice-President of the Party of European Socialists and International Secretary of the French Socialist Party
- A letter by Pouria Amirshahi, Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the French National Assembly
It was important to link the issue of the prisoners to the question of Palestine in all its dimensions. The motto of the International Meeting was ” The Freedom & Dignity of the Palestinian prisoners is key towards the freedom & dignity of the Palestinian people “.
There were 4 sessions:
- The Palestinian prisoners: a political and legal perspective.
- Reconciliation and the prisoners’ document.
- Popular resistance and the arrest of human rights defenders.
- The UN bid and its impact on the prisoners’ file.
In all of these discussions, the focus was on the need for international involvement to uphold international law and support Palestinian unity, freedom and dignity, through the fulfilment of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including its right to self-determination and return.
There were 4 major outcomes of the International Meeting.
Based on a recommendation of Ahmad Kathrada, and taking into account the experience of South Africa in campaigning for the freedom of prisoners, a decision was taken to launch an international campaign drawing inspiration from the Free Mandela Campaign and to establish an International High Level Committee in support of this Campaign.
- The establishment of a network of Chairs and former Chairs of Inter-Parliamentary groups for relations with Palestine. This network now includes parliamentarians from the European Parliament, Sweden, UK, Argentina, Chile and France. This network adopted a Joint Statement issued at the International meeting and committed itself to place the prisoners’ issue as its first priority.
- The decision to coordinate efforts between Palestinian Human Rights organisations on the one hand and the International Federation for Human rights and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network on the other, to launch legal campaigns in support of prisoners’ rights.
- The decision to emulate the French experience, where possible, of granting honorary citizenship to Marwan Barghouthi as a sign of support to the Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian people. Over 40 French municipalities have already granted Marwan Barghouthi honorary citizenship, including a dozen in the months prior to the International Meeting.