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Facts about the cyber crimes law in Palestine

Dear Friends,

 

Due to the large number of inquiries we received about the Cyber-crimes “Presidential decree” and in order to save our time and time for all concerned parts, we will highlight some of the issues related to it:

 

The President approved the law and it was announced on the eve of Eid al-Fitr holiday on 24/06/2017 and was published and the provisions of this Presidential Decree should be implemented and effective on the same day it was published on Tuesday, 11/07/2017 in the Official Gazette, (14). (The law translated version: http://www.madacenter.org/images/text_editor/CyberCrimesLawE.pdf(

 

Noting that, the draft law was not discussed with civil society organizations, although it is closely related to human rights, especially the freedom of opinion and expression and the right to privacy, taking in consideration that the Palestinian Legislative Council is still inactive since 2006).

 

A roundtable meeting was held, between Mada Center and the Information Department of the PLO on 13/07/2017 in the presence of representatives of numerous civil society organizations, journalists and the government to discuss the reality of freedom of expression and the legal environment especially the aforementioned law (especially in light of the blocking of 29 news sites as of 15/06/2017 ) One of the recommendations of the roundtable was to immediately start the formation of a committee to amend articles that affect freedom of expression and privacy.

 

The committee, which includes CSOs (including MADA Center) and the governmental representatives, has met three times since then and decided to receive civil society's observations and submit them to the Palestinian Authority, in late August 2017.

 

Based on our absolute belief in the principles of human rights in full and without fragmentation, and after reviewing the provisions of all articles/ clauses of the presidential decree, we emphasize that some of the clauses are contradictory to the most important principles of human rights, primarily the right to privacy and freedom of opinion and expression that are cornerstones for the existence of a democratic society, in addition to the many vague terms and phrases that would impose unjustified and dangerous restrictions on the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the absence of the principle of proportionality between the crimes that have been prescribed and the penalties imposed in addition to the absence of distinction and confusion between (Felony and misdemeanor) as lacking a legal basis, and a flagrant violation of the principle of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law Article No. (32) “Any violation of any personal freedom, of the sanctity of the private life of human beings, or of any of the rights or liberties that have been guaranteed by law or by this Basic Law shall be considered a crime. Criminal and civil cases resulting from such violations may not be subject to any statute of limitations. The National Authority shall guarantee a fair remedy to those who suffer from such damage”.

 

The presidential decree on Cyber-crimes disregards the principle of transparency in the application of the provisions contained in its articles. It also contradicts the Code of Criminal Procedure regarding the granting of judicial control status, besides to other clauses that contradict with current applicable Palestinian laws including the Palestinian Basic Law.

 

We also wish to emphasize the principle of the right to know the legal basis and to give individuals a period of time to review the laws after their publication in the official gazette. However, the decree stipulates that the law shall come into force from the date of its publication with reference to Article (61) of the decree which states that “All the competent authorities shall implement the provisions of this Presidential Decree, each according to their competence, and it shall be effective from the date that it is published in the official gazette”. In fact, five journalists were arrested on 08/08/2017 and charged on the basis of the Cyber-crimes law; they were released on unpaid bail (1000JD) on14/08.[1]

 

In conclusion, MADA Center affirms that Palestine has acceded to several international conventions guaranteeing and protecting freedom of opinion and expression, foremost of which is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Therefore, it is incumbent on Member States to take all legislative or other measures in line with international standards.

 

 

 


[1] Further details will be provided in our monthly report (August 2017).