29 October 2013

The international Free Marwan Barghouthi and All Palestinian Political Prisoners Campaign was launched on October 27 on Robben Island, South Africa.

Proceedings began with the signing of the Robben Island Declaration calling for the freedom of Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian Political Prisoners (See attached document).

The declaration was signed in Nelson Mandela’s prison cell.  The first signatories were ex-Robben Island political prisoners, Ahmed Kathrada and the Pan Africanist Congress’s Kwedie Mkalipi, and the wife of Marwan Barghouthi, Fadwa Barghouthi. The declaration will now make its way across the globe for signatures of support.

Subsequent to the signing of the declaration, an International High Level Committee was announced in support of the campaign. The members of the committee include:

  • Ahmed Kathrada – Founder of the International High Level Committee, historical figure of the anti-apartheid movement, former prisoner for 26 years, former Advisor for Parliamentary affairs of President Mandela, former Chairperson of the Robben Island Museum Council,
  • Angela Davis – former political prisoner and icon of the civil rights movement, USA,
  • Win Tin – former political prisoner and UNESCO World press freedom prize, Burma,
  • John Bruton – Former Prime Minister, Ireland, engaged in peace negotiations in Northern Ireland, former Vice President of the European People’s Party and former Ambassador of the EU in Washington, Member of the European Former Leaders Group,
  • Lena Hjelm-Wallén – Former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, Chair of International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Member of the European Former Leaders Group,
  • Christiane Hessel, wife of  Stéphane Hessel  –  French resistant against Nazi occupation and former Ambassador, writer and historical human rights figure, author of the worldwide best seller ”Indignez-vous”,
  • Arshbishop Desmond Tutu – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, South Africa
  • Jody Williams –  Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, USA
  • Adolfo Pérez Esquivel – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Argentina
  • José Ramos Horta – Former President, East Timor, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
  • Mairead Maguire – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Northern Ireland

Speaking at the Robben Island event, Kathrada said he hopes this campaign surpasses the Free Mandela Campaign, which he launched years ago.


“Robben Island is the place where we reiterate our support for the Palestinian cause and once again echo the clear and urgent call for the release of Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian political prisoners. This place once held captive some of the future leaders of a democratic and free South Africa. Now, the call resounds from this place for the incarcerated political leaders and unity-makers of the Palestinian people to be freed.”


Kathrada also called for global pressure to be mounted against Israel.  “Just as apartheid South Africa was isolated, we want Israel to be isolated from the civilised world,” he said.

Fadwa delivered a message that was written by her husband from his Hadarim prison cell, calling on the international community to act on the human rights issue. “The international community has political, moral and legal obligations to act in defence of justice, and to uphold international law and human rights. This responsibility lies on governments, elected representatives, human rights organisations, civil society movements, trade unions and each individual citizen.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, although not present, sent a message of support. “I add my voice to those of Mr Kathrada’s and Mrs Baghouthi’s – and all the others around the world – who are calling on Israel to step back from the precipice of division and prejudice, and free political prisoners. Their liberation will also liberate you,” he said.

Marwan Barghouthi (54) was the first member of the Palestinian Legislative Council to be arrested by Israel. He is among the most prominent of the more than 5 000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.

Following the launch of the campaign, a number of events will be hosted in Durban and Johannesburg (see email for the programme).

Issued by Neeshan Balton

Director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

+27 82 373 1143