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Who is Cosette Ibrahim?

Cosette Ibrahim (pictured above) is a 25-year old journalism graduate of the Lebanese University in Beirut. She has worked for the Al-Liwaa newspaper in Beirut and has reportedly been offered a position with AFP in Beirut, where she lived until her arrest.

When was she arrested, and why?

In early September, during a sweep in Rmeish, a village located near the Israeli in Israeli-occupied South Lebanon, the South Lebanese Army (SLA) arrested Cosette while she was visiting her parents. The SLA is Israel’s proxy militia in the occupied zone. Arrested with her were her brother-in-law, De Gaulle bu Taleb, and another man, Samir Khiami. Unofficial reports say the three were arrested for refusing to co-operate with the SLA. Others say that Cosette was arrested for writing articles that were critical of the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon. Israeli military officials quoted in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz stated that Cosette had admitted co-operating with Hezbollah. As long as Cosette is not given a trial, the official reasons for her arrest will remain unknown.

Where is she detained?

Cosette is presently detained at the Khiam Detention Centre, in the village of Khiam, in occupied South Lebanon. Security officials recently admitted to the Israeli Supreme Court that this facility is run jointly by Israel and the SLA. Roughly 150 other South Lebanese find themselves in the same predicament as Cosette. (The exact number changes nearly each day as arrests are commonplace.)

Did she commit a crime?

Again, as long as Cosette is not given a trial, there is no way of knowing whether or not she did commit a crime. Consequently, until she is given a trial, she must be considered as the victim of an arbitrary arrest. Her right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, under article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has also been violated.

There are also concerns that she may be held hostage for the purpose of negotiations with Hezbollah. This is illegal under Section 34 of the Fourth Geneva Convention ratified by Israel.

What is her current health status?

Cosette is believed to suffer from stomach ulcers. In Khiam, no doctor visits her and she receives no medical treatment or medication. Shortly after her arrest, she was taken to the SLA-run military hospital in Marjayun, in the occupied zone, presumably as a result of torture she is believed to have suffered during her interrogation, and has since been brought back to Khiam.

There have been reports that she was visited recently by a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). This organisation is allowed to visit detainees after they have been held for 21 days. The detainees’ families, however, can only visit them after they have been detained for 90 days. Consequently, Cosette’s parents have not seen her in Khiam yet.

Is she represented by a lawyer?

As is the case for all Khiam detainees, she is not allowed to choose a lawyer, and there are no charges pending against her not forthcoming trial for her. Israeli lawyers have voluntarily offered their services to Khiam detainees, some of which have effectively been represented in Israeli court. The Israeli military authorities’ recent admission that they run the Khiam Detention Centre comes as the result of a petition filed by an Israeli lawyer for four Lebanese detainees in Khiam. It is unknown whether or not Cosette was offered the services of an Israeli lawyer. However, the Lebanese media have reported that lawyers from various countries have offered to represent Cosette.

Where is her family? Can they be contacted?

Her parents live in the village of Rmeish, in occupied South Lebanon. Cosette was arrested at their home. She has a brother, Khalil, who alerted the Lebanese media to her arrest. His whereabouts are unknown. No other information is available about her family.

Lebanese journalists who have attempted to meet her parents in Rmeish were cautioned by the villagers that this could harm the family as well as the journalists themselves.

What has been done for Cosette so far?

Cosette’s friends at the Lebanese University in Beirut and members of Lebanese human rights organisations staged a sit-in protest in front of the ICRC’s offices in Beirut on September 16. A private demonstration was organised in front of the Ministry of Defence’s offices in Tel Aviv on September 27, just days after the military authorities confessed to being involved in the administration of the Khiam Detention Centre.

Actions have been launched for Cosette by journalists’ organisations such as Paris-based Reporters sans frontières and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, and through them, other journalists’ and freedom of expression organisations throughout the world as well by way of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX). In addition, Cosette, her brother-in-law De Gaulle bu Taleb and Samir Khiami have been adopted by local Amnesty International groups in Morocco and Canada. The latter is a co-organiser of today’s protest.

What does Amnesty International demand for Cosette?

AI demands that Cosette be released if she is not promptly given a trial meeting international standards of fairness for a recognisable offence. If she is held hostage for the purpose of an ulterior exchange for the bodies of missing Israeli soldiers or information about MIAs, Amnesty demands that she be released immediately and unconditionally. AI demands the same for all Khiam detainees.  In addition, Amnesty is concerned that Cosette could be taken to Israel for a trial, as this would be a violation of her rights under the Fourth Geneva Convention.