PCHR Demands Immediate Release of Persons Detained for Peace Activities in the Gaza Strip
Date: 24 September 2020
Time: 07:00 GMT
PCHR expresses its concern over the continues prosecution of three activists before the Military Court in Gaza for holding a discussion with peace activists from different nationalities, including Israeli activists. PCHR reiterated that the practice of bringing civilians before military courts and putting them to trial on the Military Law is a dangerous violation of human rights and the law, especially Article 30 of the Palestinian Basic Law which asserts that “Each Palestinian shall have the right to seek redress in the judicial system,” the civilian courts in this case.
As legal representative for the three activists, PCHR follows the case. On 09 April 2020, Rami Aman and 7 of his colleagues, including a female, were arrested for holding a Zoom meeting with peace activists from across the globe, including Israelis. A few days later, 5 persons were released while three remained under custody and were charged with recruiting self or others for the benefit of the enemy under Article 153 of the PLO Revolutionary Penal Law of 1979. On 23 June 2020, the girl was released on bail while the two other activists were kept in custody to this date. PCHR lawyer demanded their release on bail on 4 May 2020, and after more than two months of stalling, the Military Prosecution denied the request under the pretext that investigations are still ongoing.
On 17 September 2020, Aman and his two colleagues were referred to the Military Court on a different charge, “weakening revolutionary spirit,” as per Article 164 of the PLO Revolutionary Penal Law of 1979. They were transferred to Ansar Central Prison awaiting trial on this charge.
PCHR reiterates that prosecuting civilians under military law is an abortion of justice; were it a case of Palestinian military personnel contacting Israeli activists one could find basis for a crime. However, this cannot be applied to civilians, even if their practice is looked upon with disfavor by the majority of the Palestinian people. Thus, PCHR stresses that applying Military Law on Rami Aman and his colleagues is an alienation of justice and carries political motives that depart from justice.
PCHR stresses that bringing civilians before the military courts is clear violation of the Palestinian Basic Law, especially Article (30):
“Litigation is a protected and guaranteed right to all people. Each Palestinian shall have the right to find sanctuary in the legal system.”
PCHR also stresses that the 1979 Revolutionary Penal Code is unconstitutional and illegal and was not issued by a legislative authority responsible for legislation in the PA; PCHR has always criticized its application for more than two decades, an endeavor that motivated the arrest of PCHR Director, lawyer Raji Sourani in 1995 for criticizing the application of the Revolutionary Penal Code and the State Security Court, a form of Military Court that applies the Revolutionary Penal Code.
Lastly, PCHR believes that communicating with peace activists regardless of their nationalities or affiliations as long as they did not transfer confidential information or carry out acts that threaten the security and safety of civilians, is part of the freedom of expression protected under Article (19) of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, under which the State of Palestine is obliged as a Contracting Party since its accession to the Covenant in 2014. Although PCHR appreciates the rejection of the majority of Palestinians for these activities, it stresses that, in no way, can it be considered a crime and perpetrators should not be brought before military courts under any circumstances.
In light of the above, PCHR calls for suspending the trial of the three activists and the immediate release of Rami Aman and his colleague, who are detained to his date since 09 April 2020.
PCHR also calls for an end to the phenomenon of referring civilians to military courts under any justification, for it violates the simplest principles of justice, the 2003 Palestinian Basic Law, and Palestine’s international obligations.