The Palestinian Authority Arrests Its Critics

Joumana Imad
Palestinian Journalist

Although the case had been closed since 2016, the Palestinian Authority uses it as a pretext to punish the Palestinian director Abdul-Rahman Daher for his recent post in which he defends his homeland, Palestine.

“The last entity that should be entitled to comment is the Palestinian Authority.” This was the latest post published by the Palestinian activist and director Abdul-Rahman Daher on his Facebook account, commenting on the Palestinian Authority’s attitude towards the UAE’s decision to normalize relations with Israel.

A few hours later, the Palestinian Authority security services arrested Daher while he was returning from home from work, in contradiction to the right to freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed by international human rights laws. He was imprisoned and charged with insult and defamation, a charge that falls under the provisions of cybercrime laws.

Activist Abdul-Rahman Daher (39 years old), is an art director at the Media Center of An-Najah National University in Nablus, in the northern West Bank, and has achieved remarkable achievements in the world of art and theater.

Older Charges

“Abdul-Rahman is not hostile to any party. He is committed to his work, and has no political orientation,” Rasha Daher, the arrested Palestinian director’s wife, tells Daraj. “The charges brought up against him by the court are very old, based on satirical television programs that he produced years ago while he was outside Palestinian territories.”

She pointed out that that case had been closed since 2016, but that the authority used it as a pretext to punish him for his recent post in which he defended his homeland, Palestine, out of patriotism.

She adds, “My husband has been a journalist for years, and we have already approached the Journalists Syndicate of the Palestinian Authority to demand that it take over his defense and issue statements condemning his arrest. However, our demand was rejected, on the pretext that he doesn’t have a membership in the Syndicate, which is another attempt to evade his defense, because my husband did in fact already have a previous membership.”

The security services did not have enough by just arresting Daher, as on the following day, a force of Preventive Security services raided his house, under the pretext of ‘inspecting it’, and confiscated papers and documents related to him, according to his wife.

Daher suffers from chronic diseases in the chest and stomach, which led to a serious deterioration in his health, while under investigation by the security services. Despite this, he was arrested and brought before the court, without his wife being allowed to speak with him, surrounded by security forces, exhibiting obvious signs of exhaustion and fatigue.

In recent years, the Palestinian Authority has adopted a method that suppresses Palestinian activists who criticize its policies or government officials, or highlight any corruption within government institutions, whether through social media or traditional media, by charging them with libel and defamation charges.

Coinciding with the incident of Daher’s arrest, the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Services arrested the Palestinian activist Nizar Banat, known as the “fighter of corruption” in Hebron, in the southern West Bank. Nizar is known to shed light on the corruption of the authorities’ institutions through social media; He was released a week later.

The security services did not have enough by just arresting Daher, as on the following day, a force of Preventive Security services raided his house, under the pretext of ‘inspecting it’, and confiscated papers and documents related to him, according to his wife.

Banat is the most prominent organizer of the “Tafah Alkyl” or the “We’re fed up” movement, which was organized by Palestinian activists in the city of Ramallah recently, as an expression of their rejection of officials’ excesses and corruption within official institutions, especially with regard to appointing and promoting the children and relatives of officials and ministers. This is in addition to issues of corruption in the telecommunications sector, and the withholding of freedom of information.

The Cybercrime Law, which the Palestinian government passed in the West Bank in 2018, is the basis on which it relies to justify further violations of freedom of the press and expression of opinion, and it is the pretext that the Authority uses to arrest activists trying to expose corruption or criticize its policies.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms “MADA”, has condemned the arrest of director Abdul-Rahman Daher by the Preventive Security Services in Nablus and the extension of his arrest for seven days.

The center said that the security services arrested Daher while he was leaving his workplace on the satellite channel of An-Najah National University on Monday, August 17, 2020, and his family did not know of his arrest until the next day.

Mada Center demanded the immediate release of Daher and an end to the violation of media and public freedom.

Repeated Violations

The “Lawyers for Justice” group, in the West Bank, considered the arrest of Abdel Rahman Daher for sharing a post on social media and old television programs contradictory to the Palestinian Basic Law that guarantees these kinds of freedoms. Furthermore, it was an arbitrary extrajudicial detention, as exercising freedom of opinion is not a crime.

The group pointed out that the security services were taking advantage of the declared state of emergency in the West Bank due to the “Coronavirus” pandemic to conduct a mass arrest campaign against the activists for expressing their opinions. Contrary to the statements made by the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who stressed that he would never allow for the violation of freedom.

“We condemn the arrest of Abdel Rahman Daher, and we consider it part of a cycle of ongoing political detention in the West Bank,” Mohammed Siam, a human rights activist in Palestine tells Daraj. “Particularly with dozens of similar violations against human rights activists, journalists, students and individuals who have expressed their views on the PA’s policies and exposed administrative and financial corruption.”

“This year we recorded a significant increase of more than 53 percent compared to 2019, for security summonses carried out by the Palestinian Preventive Security and Palestinian Intelligence Service without any clear charges, and without enabling these persons to exercise their legal rights to appoint an attorney and be informed of the charges against them,” he added.

Siam asserts that the absence of the Legislative Council’s role in supervising the performance of the security services in particular, and the Ministry of Interior in general, has had the greatest impact on allowing these entities to violate fundamental rights guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which prohibit the restriction or prohibition of freedom of opinion and expression.

Putting an End to the Assaults

Siam points out that the Palestinian Authority is required to form investigation committees to seriously examine the political detainees’ cases, and to bring violators to legal accountability for violating basic rights in the West Bank, and that the UN is required to exercise pressure on the Palestinian Authority to put an end to the repeated assaults against Palestinians for expressing their opinions.

On the other hand, Rami Abdo, director of the Euro-Mediterranean Observatory for Human Rights, said, “The arrest of activist Abdel Rahman Zahir and others cannot be seen outside the context of political arrests and arrests against free expression, which have been widely practiced by the Palestinian Authority since its foundation.”

“Over the past two years, targeting people for charges related to their expression of opinion outside the political activist community has escalated, particularly after the PA passed the Cybercrime Act 10/2018,” he explained to Daraj.

Suppressing the Political Opposition of the Authority

Most of the arrests between 2006 and 2018 were clearly against Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Popular Front activists. Nevertheless, the scene changed after the adoption of the Act, with arrests increasing based on the expression of opinions, targeting journalists, activists, and anyone who voices their anger against the Palestinian Authority and its symbols, according to Abdo.

The Director of the Mediterranean Observatory indicates that there have been 1,400 political arrests over the past two years in the West Bank, reflecting the continued failure of the Palestinian Authority to observe its international contractual obligations and the continued violation of the dignity of individuals, whether in the principle of arrest and the grounds for arrest, prosecution, and torture.

He points out that Daher’s arrest has a retaliatory dimension, without regard to the grounds for proper prosecution, and without refuting the allegations made by the activist in his posts and recorded statements.

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