SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: March 26, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Birzeit University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Palestine (OPT)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 26, 2019, Israeli authorities reportedly detained three students,Tafiq Abu Arqoub, Hamzeh Abu Qare, and Udday Nakhla, on the Birzeit University campus.

At around 6 AM on March 26, Birzeit University guards reported that the campus’s main gate had been broken, and that they had seen vehicles with Israeli license plates transport a group of men in civilian clothing away from the university shortly thereafter. Guards then reportedly confirmed that Abu Arqoub, Abu Qare, and Nakhla were missing from a campus classroom where they had been seen hours before. The classroom’s doors had reportedly been forced open and broken. Birzeit University has stated publicly that students were abducted by Israeli operatives “disguised as Palestinians.”

Later that day, Abu Arqoub’s family reportedly received a phone call from the Israeli military informing them that the three students had been transported to Ofer Prison and would appear in court on March 27. Abu Arqoub’s family believes his detention is linked to his association with an Islamic student group at Birzeit, of which Abu Qare is reportedly also a member.

The three students were reportedly not publicly wanted by the Israeli military, and there is currently no information available about the grounds for their arrest. In late April, the Israeli military ordered the continued imprisonment of Abu Arqoub through “administrative detention,” a procedure that allows for the incarceration of an individual without trial or charge, based on undisclosed evidence that they intended to commit a crime.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparent arbitrary detention and incarceration of three students, the destruction of campus property, and the entry onto a campus by occupying troops absent exigent circumstances. Arbitrary arrests and entry into higher education facilities without particularized and reasonable suspicion may violate recognized human rights standards and international humanitarian law. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.