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Arbitrary Measures Taken Against Cellular Telecommunications Companies and their Administrations in Gaza on Grounds of Investigations into Explosion Targeting Prime Minister’s Convoy: PCHR Calls for Joint Committee of Inquiry under Egyptian Auspices

Ref: 35/2018

The Palestinian Center for human Rights (PCHR) follows up with deep concern the developments relevant to the investigations into the crime of targeting the Palestinian Prime Minister’s convoy in Gaza, particularly the decisions to close Catania Moble Company and repeatedly summoning Directors in Jawwal Company in Gaza and detaining them for hours, under the pretext of not providing information in the ongoing investigations into the explosion.  PCHR emphasizes that the closure decision and arrests are all unlawful.  Thus, PCHR calls for forming a joint committee of inquiry comprised of the two parties to the division under the auspices of Egypt to overcome all the procedural obstacles resulting from the division and to work seriously for ending the division in the Public Prosecution and Judiciary as soon as possible.

According to PCHR’s follow-up, media relayed news that the Attorney General issued a decision to close the head office of Wataniya Mobile Company in Gaza, claiming the Company has not provided information about some users of Wataniya SIM cards and believing this is relevant to the explosion that targeted the Prime minister’s Convoy.

PCHR’s fieldworker emphasized that the Company’s head office was closed while officials in the Company refused to receive any calls regarding this case.

Moreover, the Internal Security Service in Gaza summoned and detained each of: ‘Omer Mohammed Shamali, Jawwal Gaza Regional Manager; ‘Abdel Fattah Harbi al-Shorafa, Commercial Manager at Jawwal; Bassam Freih al-‘Adini, Director of Technical Department at Jawwal; and Mustafa Bassam al-Kayali, Head of Customer Care Department at Jawwal. They were all summoned four times and detained for long hours on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and were asked to come back today, Sunday, 18 March 2018.  Every time they were released after midnight after practicing pressure on them during their detention to force the Company to provide information about users of Jawwal SIM cards.

It is believed that the wanted information is relevant to the incident of the explosion that targeted the Prime Minister’s convoy and other cases, according to media reports.

It should be mentioned that Jawwal Company has refused since Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip to hand any information to the authorities governing the Gaza Strip or the judicial authorities in Gaza.  The Company says that it is bound by law and cannot reveal users’ information except pursuant to an order issued by the Attorney General in Ramallah.  Apparently, Wataniya Company follows the same approach to dealing with its users’ privacy.

PCHR appreciates the gravity of the current situation and importance of revealing those behind the crime of targeting the Prime Minister’s convoy.  PCHR also respects all efforts exerted to the investigation and understands its subsequent requirements. However, PCHR emphasizes on the importance to adhere strictly to the Penal Procedures Code and requirements of justice and protect human rights.

PCHR stresses that obtaining information from any telecommunications company about any information relevant to the users shall be strictly subject to the Penal Procedure Code, in particular Article 51, which states that: monitoring wireless and wired communications and recording conversations in a private place” shall be ” upon a permission from the Magistrate’s Judge if it is useful in revealing the truth in a felony or misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of at least one year. The Article also confirms that “the subpoena and permission to monitor or record a call shall be for a reason and for a period not exceeding 15 days and renewable for one time.”

According to the previous texts, any users’ information shall be given upon permission from the Attorney General after taking a permit from the Magistrate’s Court. The decision shall be reasoned and time-bound as stipulated by law, and this is consistent with international standards relevant to the right to privacy.

PCHR also emphasizes that the closure of any company is not upon the order of the Attorney General, but shall be upon a decision from the competent court and for obvious reasons.

PCHR calls for a joint committee of inquiry to investigate the explosion that targeted the Prime Minister’s convoy under the Egyptian supervision. It also confirms that joint investigations are the right way to put an end for any attempts to question the investigations results and may sow further confusion.

Moreover, PCHR affirms that respect for the Penal Procedure Code during investigations is not a choice but a legal obligation that shall never be ignored under any pretext. These procedures include the right of suspects to hire a lawyer since the beginning of investigation period, bring them before the natural judge, enable the accused persons’ right to defense in a public trial and sometimes it is lawful to hold secret hearings with the presence of their lawyers if there was a justification for that.

PCHR emphasizes on its rejection that use of repeated detentions or closure of companies’ offices as a means of pressure to obtain the required information. PCHR also stresses that any unlawful or arbitrary detention constitutes a crime of abuse of power that is penalized under the Palestinian Penal Code. PCHR also confirms that the right way is to form a joint committee to conduct investigations under the Egyptian auspices.

PCHR calls for ending the Palestinian division immediately and ending the division in the judicial system, including the Public Prosecution, shall be a priority.