On 5 June, the public prosecution office interrogated Azmi Al-Shuaibi, Advisor to the Board of Directors, and Issam Haj Hussein, Executive Director of AMAN—Transparency International’s National Chapter—, as part of a legal action initiated by the Office of the President against AMAN, accusing the organisation of defamation of higher officials following the launch of their annual report on 17 May.
Azzim Al-Shuaibi and Issam Haj Hussein will have to appear before the prosecutor’s office again tomorrow, 6 June. Transparency International is concerned that they might be arrested as defamation is deemed a criminal offense in Palestine.
Transparency International’s chapter leads a coalition of civil society organisations that works to ensure that social accountability is a corner stone to the national integrity system in Palestine. The AMAN Coalition publishes its annual reports to present specific recommendations to Palestinian decision-makers and relevant stakeholders. These recommendations aim to assist in the adoption of measures and procedures that strengthen the national integrity system and shield it against corruption.
AMAN–Transparency International’s National Chapter—has been operating for more than 20 years and is a highly regarded and recognised organisation in Palestine that speaks against corruption and for transparency and accountability.
International human rights standards call for defamation to be a civil, not a criminal matter, and establishes that public officials should be subject to higher scrutiny, and therefore a higher defamation threshold. The Palestinian Basic Law and the Law of Charitable Associations and Civil Organizations also protects civil society organisations to engage in criticism, express their opinions freely, and contribute to the public discourse.
Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of Transparency International, said:
“The complaint and ensuing interrogation of members of our movement in Palestine is an attempt to undermine the work of civil society organisations, like the AMAN Coalition, that rightly carry out their work to hold government to account. Such intimidation tactics undermine their collective efforts to combat corruption.”