In a new statement released Thursday evening, Amnesty International slammed the charges brought against Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro by the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Amnesty highlighted the authorities’ use of a highly controversial Electronic Crimes Law to charge Amro, describing the developments as “a dramatic escalation in the Palestinian authorities’ onslaught against freedom of expression”.
Issa Amro, coordinator of the Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements, was arrested on 4 September for posting comments on Facebook critical of the PA.
In a closed hearing Thursday, the Hebron district court extended his detention for four days and charged him with both disturbing ‘public order’ under the recently adopted Electronic Crimes Law, as well as ‘causing strife’ and ‘insulting the higher authorities’ under the 1960 Jordanian Penal code.
Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, commented: “Today’s decision to charge Issa Amro and extend his detention is an alarming development which demonstrates the lengths to which the Palestinian authorities are prepared to go to silence peaceful critics”.
She continued: “The fact that the Palestinian authorities are so quickly making use of the newly adopted cybercrimes law to crush dissent is deeply disturbing. The Electronic Crimes Law blatantly flouts international law and violates the people’s rights to privacy; it should be immediately repealed – not used to put peaceful critics behind bars”.
Amnesty noted how “Issa Amro is also currently facing trial before an Israeli military court for his role in organizing protests against Israeli discriminatory policies and settlements in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank – which violate international law”.
“The fact that both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities are harassing Issa Amro in connection with his peaceful activism illustrates just how much the space for freedom of expression for human rights activists is shrinking – they are under attack from both sides,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.
According to Amnesty, “the Palestinian authorities have intensified their clampdown on freedom of expression in recent months by arresting journalists and shutting down opposition websites, and adopting the Electronic Crimes Law”, a law that Amnesty has urged be repealed.