Geneva- The Palestinian Authority's security services violations on the freedom of opinion and expression as well as citizens' right to travel are deeply concerning, says the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, confirming that during the last ten days of October 2014, it received 42 complaints of arbitrary arrest and 27 complaints of summoning citizens outside the law.
These complaints include violations of the human rights conventions recently signed by Palestine and constitute a violation of the laws in force in Palestine. These violations vary from arrest without judicial authorization, to banning lawyers from communicating with the accused during interrogation, and arbitrary detention on the background expression of opinion and peaceful assembly.
On November 2, 2014,Euro-Med Monitor stated that the Palestinian Authority had recently prevented Palestinian activist Ali Qaraqaa (24) from traveling to Jordan and handed him a summons to meet its intelligence service, on the background of his expression of views contrary to that of the Palestinian Authority.
According to Qaraqi's testimony to Euro-Med, he was met with campaigns of harassment and defamation when he posted a sarcastic clip on his Facebook page, criticizing a speech by the PA's, Mahmoud Abbas. In addition, he received indirect threats demanding him to stay silent and avoid criticizing the PA.
Qaraqi said he was interrogated by the Palestinian intelligence service near Allenby Bridge while traveling to Jordan. Investigators asked questions about his political affiliation, his engagement on social media pages and and asked him to provide them with his Facebook email and password. They informed him he's not allowed to travel and gave him a summons to meet the intelligence service office in Bethlehem where he lives.
In the same context, the Palestinian security forces arrested two activists from the Deheisheh camp in Bethlehem, Nael Abu Aker and Mohammed Lutfi Khmour, which led to protests in the camp. On October 29, security forces arrested five citizens from different parts of the West Bank and summoned four others, without giving a court order. On October 28, the PA's security services headed to Hassan al-Qawasmi's house in Hebron to arrest him, but he was not at home and arrested his father to pressure him to surrender.
Euro-Med Monitor also received a complaint from the family of Shatat in the town of Bidya near Salfit after the PA's security forces arrested their son, Abdullah Mohammed Shatat on Wednesday 22/10. The PA's security members arrested 22-year-old Mohammed while at his workplace in an olive mill, assaulted him and attempted to kill him, according to the family.
"One security member, in civilian clothes, of the force that came to arrest Mohammed pointed a gun at him and tried to shoot him, but a technical glitch of the gun prevented that disaster," said Mohammed's brother.
The Shatat family said they contacted the Palestinian Preventive Security Service an hour after the arrest of their son. They were told that their son was being held and "in need of discipline". The family said that their son's lawyer was barred from seeing him, adding they had serious doubts their son was tortured. He showed signs of torture when he was brought before the Public Prosecutor's Office and charged with "resisting the authorities". The family said that their son, Abdullah, had previously been arrested by the Preventive Security Service for "inciting sectarian strife" and tortured within 20 days of the investigation. Even when he was released on bail, the Palestinian intelligence service arrested him again and released him 14 days later.
On 21/10/2014, the Palestinian security services arrested 17 year-old Meqdad Omar Qawasmeh, who had since started a hunger strike to protest his detention for no reason. "He was also tortured, which led to his being taken to the hospital several times, " confirmed his family. The same authorities arrested 6 citizens a day earlier, including journalist Ghassan Najjar from Bethlehem.
Furthermore, the PA's security services refused in many cases to release citizens despite a judicial order to release them, as what happened with citizens Shadi, Hussein Abu Akr, Abdullah Saqr and Hussein Abed Rabbo from Aida camp in Bethlehem.
Euro-Med Monitor points out that most arrests come on the background of posting on social media or press materials published on local sites and newspapers, as recently happened to citizens Bara Alqadi, Raed Qabaj and Aslan Taweel, and in July with citizens, Tamer Al-Kahla and Qotaiba Saleh Qasem.
These policies indicate the intentional targeting of the right to freedom of expression, intimidation and the restriction of public freedoms. Article 11 of the Palestinian Basic Law stipulates that: "It is unlawful to arrest, search, imprison, restrict the freedom, or prevent the movement of any person, except by judicial order in accordance with the provisions of the law."
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the security services in the West Bank to desist from the policy of summonses and travel ban, and to grant freedom of expression a wider scope. The PA's services' continuation to summon activists without charges is a clear violation of international conventions and norms. Euro-Med also calls on the human rights commissioner to take the necessary measures to bind the Palestinian Authority to the human rights conventions that it had signed.