IBAHRI concerned about the arbitrary arrest and detention of Palestinian human rights lawyer Diala Ayesh

Friday 23 February 2024

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has raised concerns about the arbitrary arrest and detention of Diala Ayesh, a Palestinian lawyer and human rights defender who is recognised for her advocacy for the freedom and fair treatment of Palestinian political prisoners, the assurance of fair trial guarantees and the right to freedom of expression.

Ms Ayesh has been heavily involved in the protection against arbitrary detention and fair treatment of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons and has faced threats and harassment from authorities for her work.

The IBAHRI urges the Israeli authorities to stop the targeting of all human rights defenders, including lawyers in the West Bank and across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and to guarantee in all circumstances that lawyers can carry out their legitimate work without restriction or fear, including judicial harassment.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc stated: ‘The arbitrary arrest and detention of Palestinian human rights lawyer Diala Ayesh by Israeli military forces is deeply troubling. The IBAHRI emphasises that lawyers play a vital role in upholding the rule of law and the protection of human rights, including the rights to fair trial guarantees, freedom from torture and other inhumane or degrading treatment, and access to justice. Their work is indispensable for ensuring effective access to justice for all. To fulfil their professional duties effectively, lawyers must be able to practice their profession safely and in accordance with recognised laws, standards, and ethics. The IBAHRI calls on the Israeli authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ms Ayesh, uphold her right to legal representation, and ensure access to medical treatment in accordance with international law.’

On 17 January 2024, Ms Ayesh was arrested by Israeli military forces as she passed through a military checkpoint, known as the Container, set up by the Israeli Defense Forces near Bethlehem in southern West Bank. During her arrest, Ms Ayesh was reportedly subjected to assault, threats and intimidation by Israeli soldiers.

On 25 January 2024, Ms Ayesh – who is presently being held in solitary confinement – was sentenced to a four-month administrative decision order. This decision is still awaiting judicial review, which was supposed to take place within 12 days of the issuance of the order. No charges were brought against her and no trial was held. She did not appear in a court.

Following her arrest, Ms Ayesh was detained in Hasharon Prison until 22 January 2024. The facility has been criticised for harsh conditions and treatment of Palestinian women prisoners. Subsequently, she was transferred to Damon Prison where she is currently being held. The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has reported on allegations of dire conditions at Damon Prison. Considering Ms Ayesh’s existing medical conditions and health, which require immediate attention, the assertions are of further concern to the IBAHRI.

Ms Ayesh is being detained under a set of laws and military orders, updated since 7 October 2023, that permit arrests without communication of charges, extended court appearances, harsher penalties and restricted lawyer and family access. This has posed significant challenges to Palestinian lawyers monitoring detainees, impeding the ability of the legal profession to carry out its legitimate work effectively by restricting access to information and unduly suspending due process rights, legal representation and protections.

The IBAHRI also expresses serious concern over the alleged violation of Ms Ayesh’s right to a fair trial, provided by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Ms Ayesh was only allowed access to her lawyers, from Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association, on 23 January 2024, six days after her initial arrest.

Based on the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers principle 16: ‘Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (...) and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics’. Further, pursuant to principle 23 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers: ‘lawyers, like any other citizens, are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association, and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights’.

IBAHRI Director, Baroness Helena Kennedy KC commented: ‘The IBAHRI expresses serious concern over the arbitrary arrest and detention of Palestinian human rights lawyer Diala Ayesh and the reported violations of her rights during her arrest and subsequent detention. We urge the Israeli authorities to adhere to international legal standards, ensuring Ms Ayesh's right to due process, access to legal representation, and humane living conditions. The targeting of human rights defenders, including lawyers, in the West Bank and the Occupied Palestinian Territories must cease, allowing them to carry out their vital work without fear or restriction.’

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute calls on the Israeli authorities to:

  • immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and human rights defenders, including human rights lawyer Diala Ayesh (pursuant to Article 9 ICCPR);
  • ensure Ms Ayesh has access to a lawyer of her choosing, and to be provided with adequate opportunities, time, and facilities to be visited by and to communicate with a lawyer, without delay and in full confidentiality (principle 8, UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and, Article 14 of the ICCPR); and
  • ensure Ms Ayesh has access to medical treatment and facilities and is guaranteed humane living conditions for prisoners, as required by international law (principle 9, UN Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).
The IBAHRI echoes Mary Lawlor the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, who said in a statement that ‘[t]he work of human rights defenders in times of armed conflict is essential’ and that ‘[t]heir efforts are vital in documenting and preserving evidence of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, and ensuring the possibility of accountability and justice’.



Notes to the Editor 

  1. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  2. Find the IBAHRI on social media here:
  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.

Website page link for this news release:

Short link: www.tinyurl.com/4jsf28uy
Full link: www.ibanet.org/IBAHRI-concerned-about-the-arbitrary-arrest-and-detention-of-Palestinian-human-rights-lawyer-Diala-Ayesh