In an extraordinary and inexplicable incident, the content of an exhibition by Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba’aneh went missing during a fringe event at the 18th session of Assembly of States Parties, International Criminal Court in The Netherlands.
Earlier this week Saba’aneh, who is CRNI’s regional representative from the Middle-East, posted images from inside the ICC where his cartoons were on display as part of an initiative by human rights organisation Al Haq and the Palestinian delegation to the court.
Today it has been reported that twenty panels featuring his work, the total pictorial content of the exhibit, went missing for a period of several hours and then once found had to be placed under police guard. Condemnation has been quick in coming from the sponsors and supporters of the event. In an official statement the Palestinian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Emigrants describes the work as having been “removed in a malicious way” and “hidden without prior permission” on December 4th and calls are made for a “comprehensive and transparent” investigation.
Palestine’s ambassador to The Netherlands, Rawan Sulaiman took to social media in support of the cartoonist.
“In an unprecedented incident, deliberately and without prior permission from the stakeholders of the event and from the center of the conference, the picture exhibition of the Palestinian artist Mohammad Saba’aneh, which was organized by the State of Palestine in partnership with the Al-Haq Foundation on the sidelines of the meeting of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court held in The Hague, has been removed. The work documented the crimes of the occupation in Palestine, which fall within the legal jurisdiction of the Rome Charter, a work condemned by all standards. We expect the court, as we have been informed, to conduct a transparent investigation leading to strict measures.Ambassador Rawan Sulaiman, via Mohammad Saba’aneh’s Facebook page
You can imagine, my friends, the hostile environment that we face in our work from some people who aim to hinder any action that might contribute to reaching a result that we all seek, which is achieving justice and accountability.
I feel wounded on behalf of my friend, creative artist Mohammad Sabaaneh.”
As Just World Education point out in their coverage of the incident, Saba’aneh’s artwork has been seized in the past. While this strange disruption of his most recent exhibition cannot yet be fairly categorised as deliberate sabotage it has naturally caused anxiety for the cartoonist, who is set to return to Ramallah shortly and will be forced to once again run the gauntlet of Israeli security at Allenby Bridge.