Ramallah – The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) called for the immediate release of detained members of the Activists Against Corruption Movement, who took part in a protest on 19 July 2020 in the Ramallah city. AMAN made clear that the detention “is a vindictive punitive measure that is inconsistent with public rights and freedoms enshrined in the Palestinian Basic Law, including the right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, criticism, and accountability. This punishment does not serve national interests, which require the adoption of the values of democracy, openness, and compliance with international standards and conventions.”
In a statement on the detained activists, AMAN stressed that “measures involving deprivation of liberty may not be taken in cases concerning freedom of opinion and freedom of expression.” This matter should be left to courts and judges to decide whether persons who exercise their right to freedom of expression have violated the law and, as a consequence, deserve to be punished.
According to AMAN, regardless of the debate over the intentions of such movements and responsible persons, even if legal procedures provided by the Law on Public Meetings and state of emergency regulations have been violated, and no matter how accurate or valid the suspicions of corruption circulated on social media platforms are, official authorities should have opened an investigation into these allegations. A response should have been made in consistence with the requirements of transparency, community accountability, and citizens’ right of access to public information.
As soon as the COVID-19 state of emergency expires, AMAN confirmed that it would organise an in-depth workshop. This would bring together relevant authorities, including the Public Prosecution, Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission, State Audit and Administrative Control Bureau, Police, security agencies, President’s Office, General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers, as well as some activists and human rights groups. The workshop will examine the significance of the rights to criticism, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and accountability. The discussion will address the exercise of all these rights in a proper and lawful manner. It will further investigate the impact of control procedures on the right to report corruption and protection of whistleblowers. With emerging community-based action, corruption cases have been widely publicised, particularly on social media networks. An optimal approach to dealing with such cases will enhance citizens’ trust in public institutions and maintain the due process of law. Of particular note, the sensitive political situation of the question of Palestine requires a concerted effort in the face of the Israeli annexation plan.