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The Arrest of Two University Students by PA Security Forces
- [9-15 February] -Ref.: 14/2015
24، Feb 2015

Al-haq-Danish-AwardAwrdPalestinian Intelligence and Preventative Security Forces continue to arbitrarily arrest and detain Palestinians in the West Bank, violating national and international law. In some cases, torture and ill-treatment are used against the detainees while in custody. Many of those arrested are accused of criminal activity because of their affiliation with opposition political parties, like Hamas. In other instances, detainees are kept in detention in breach of court orders for their release.

Affidavit of 'Abd Al-Hadi Badawi Al-Zahur - Al-Madares/Beit Kahel - Hebron

On Wednesday 4 February 2015 at approximately 4:00 pm, six officers from the Palestinian Preventative Security searched the residence of 'Abd Al-Hadi, 51, in Hebron. An officer asked 'Abd Al-Hadi's son, Hamza, 21, who is an agricultural engineering student at the University of Hebron, to accompany them to the security office. The officers said that it would only take five minutes and did not present an arrest warrant; Hamza, however, was detained till Monday 16 February. That night at approximately 8:00 pm, 12 members of the Preventative Security Forces returned to 'Abd Al-Hadi's house and confiscated his and his daughter's laptop as well as his and Hamza's cell phones.

On Monday 9 February, Hamza was brought before the Hebron magistrate court where the prosecutor accused him of inciting division amongst the community, where his release would threaten the security of the State of Palestine. Although the prosecutor asked that Hamza’s detention be extended for 15 more days, the judge only agreed to a four day extension of detention. On 12 February, the day of his expected release, Hamza had another court hearing with a different judge where he was accused of money laundering and inciting division. The judge agreed to release Hamza on a 500 JD bail.

On the same day, 'Abd Al-Hadi paid the bail and headed to the Preventative Security's headquarters in Hebron at approximately 1:00 pm anticipating his son’s release. There, he was told that the process would take two hours. Two hours later, the guard at the entrance spoke to someone from the interrogation department and informed 'Abd Al-Hadi that Hamza would be released within 15 minutes. At approximately 6:00 pm, one of the guards informed 'Abd Al-Hadi that Hamza would not be released unless he pays a sum of 1,800 USD to the Preventative Security. 'Abd Al-Hadi inquired why and reassured the guard that he has the release order for Hamza from the court. The guard could not provide a reason for the additional sum, and said that there was nothing he could do.

On Friday 13 February at approximately 8:30 pm, the Preventative Security allowed Hamza to phone his father. As soon as Hamza spoke about the court order for his release, the security officers surrounding him started yelling at him and ordered him to only ask for the things he needed. Hamza asked for clothes to which 'Abd Al-Hadi responded that he would not bring as Hamza should be released. ‘Abd Al-Hadi also said that he would go to human rights organisations, the media, and the governor to ensure Hamza’s release. The phone line immediately then cut off.

On Sunday 15 February, Hamza's father learned that Hamza was being detained at the disposal of the governor. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10432/2015)

Laith Rasmi Al-‘Asafra – Beit Kahel – Hebron

Laith, 21, is an agricultural engineering student at the University of Hebron. Between 2014 and 2015, Laith was arrested six times by the Palestinian Intelligence and Preventative Security Forces. In April, Laith was arrested and detained by the Preventative Security for eight days and interrogated about his activities with the Islamic student group. During his detention, he was not presented before the public prosecution, as required under the Palestinian criminal procedure law, or a judge.

In October 2014, the Preventative Security raided Laith’s house, confiscated his laptop and other electronic devices, and arrested him. He was interrogated about his student activities and was accused of being part of a militant wing. Fourteen days after his arrest, he was brought before the public prosecution and a judge with the charge of owning an unauthorized weapon. He was found not guilty.

On 4 January 2015, the Palestinian Intelligence arrested Laith from his home without presenting an arrest warrant. He was brought before the public prosecution and the magistrate court of Hebron. During the interrogations, he was accused of money laundering and was interrogated about his student activities. Laith was beaten with wooden rods on his hand several times and the interrogators stood on his bare toes with their boots.  On 13 January, ten days after the start of his detention, the judge decided to release him on a 4,000 JD bail.

On 21 January, Laith was arrested near his university after finishing his classes by Palestinian Intelligence officers. He was taken into a car and was beaten, kicked and slapped while on the way to the Intelligence headquarters. Another student was also arrested with Laith, Na’el Khalaf. After having his belongings taken, Laith was taken into an interrogation room with six interrogators, where he was questioned about his connection to Na’el and was accused of giving him money. Laith insisted that Na’el was his colleague at university and that he did not give him money. Throughout the interrogation session which lasted for approximately an hour and a half, Laith was beaten by the six interrogators.

The next day, Laith was brought before the prosecutor and was accused of money laundering. Laith then gave a statement and was brought before a judge who extended his detention for four more days. During the night of Friday 23 January, Laith was taken to the interrogation room where he was questioned for about an hour about his student activities and was accused of giving money to students from the Islamic group. He was beaten during this session by an interrogator named Abu Tayyem.

On Monday 26 January, Laith was taken to the magistrate court of Hebron at 12:00 pm where the prosecution asked for his arrest to be extended 15 more days. However, the judge released him on a 2,000 JD bail upon his lawyer’s request.

At approximately 10:30 pm that day, Laith was given his belongings and was released. He left the Intelligence headquarters and walked for 50 metres when some Intelligence officers stopped him and asked for his identification card. Laith immediately put out his arms in front him and told the officer “you can handcuff me as I know that you are about to arrest me”. He was taken back to the Intelligence headquarters where he turned in his belongings. This was five minutes after his release. He was taken to the medical services to do a medical check as a new detainee. He was interrogated once but was not brought before court or the public prosecution. He was kept in a cell for seven days until his release date, 1 February.

On Tuesday 3 February, 10 members of the Preventative Security arrived to Laith’s house at approximately 11:45 pm. They searched the house and confiscated his laptop and cell phone then arrested him. On the morning of 4 February, Laith was taken to the court’s waiting room but his hearing was not held. Laith was detained for eight days without being brought before the court or the public prosecution. He was interrogated numerous times for long hours and accused of money laundering.

This time, Laith was kept in detention barefoot and with most of his clothes off in a very cold cell for about 10 hours at a time with the lights off. On Tuesday 10 February, a representative from the Independent Commission for Human Rights visited Laith and told him that his lawyer had a release order for him but he is being detained at the disposal of the Governor Kamel Hamid. After informing the Preventative Security that he would go on hunger strike until he is allowed to call his family, he was allowed to talk to his parents. His father told him that the court had issued a release order for 8 February 2015. His father had come to the headquarters that day, but was informed by officers that Laith was detained at the disposal of the Governor for 15 days. Laith was released on 11 February at approximately 6:30 pm. Laith affirms that he has never committed an act in violation of Palestinian law. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10433/2015)

According to Article 11 of the Palestinian Basic Law, a person can be arrested only by judicial order and in accordance with the provisions of the law. Therefore, the arrest of people at the disposal of the Governor is in violation of the Basic Law as well as the 2003 Presidential decree regarding the powers of governors which only permits the governor to issue arrest orders if he or she catches someone in the act. The Jordanian Crime Prevention Law (7) of 1954, is mistakenly used to grant governors the power to issue an arrest warrant. However, this law is unconstitutional and contradicts the Palestinian Basic Law and the Palestinian Criminal Procedure Law of 2001, by overriding the powers of the public prosecution by, for example, granting the governor the right to interfere in the interrogation process. Even if Law (7) of 1954 was consistent with these aforementioned laws, it was not validly applied in the case of Laith and Moustafa. The law, under Article 2, only grants the powers mentioned to the governor of the Capital, not the governor of each district.

In light of the aforementioned, Al-Haq calls on Palestinian security apparatuses to abide by Palestinian law in carrying out arrests and the subsequent procedures, including by bringing individuals before the public prosecution within 24 hours of the arrest, as required by the Palestinian criminal procedure code, in order to know the charges against them, and brought before judges promptly. Moreover, judicial rulings must be adhered to in order to avoid cases of arbitrary arrest and detention, and guarantee the rule of law.

Both Hamza and Laith were not presented with a judicial order or an arrest warrant as required under Article 11 of the Palestinian Basic Law. In addition, they were not promptly brought before a judge following their arrest and detention, they were kept in detention in contravention to the court's orders and therefore they were both arbitrarily arrested and detained. Under international law, individuals should be promptly informed of the charges of which they are accused. Once arrested or detained, the individual must then be promptly brought, before a judge, a period which is often defined as within 48 hours. Once a judicial order is issued for the release of an individual, it should be immediately implemented. These very basic procedures were ignored in the cases of Laith and Hamza.

Additionally, the right to freedom of association is guaranteed under both national and international laws. Both Laith and Hamza were arguably arrested because of individuals they associated with rather than any criminal activity. Article 26 of the Basic Law stipulates that Palestinians have the right to participate in political life. Internationally, the right to freedom of association is guaranteed in Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 29 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. By arresting individuals based on their political affiliation, in this case university students, and questioning them on their student activities, the Palestinian Authority is effectively punishing individuals for legitimately exercising their right to freedom of association. By doing so, the arrest and detention of individuals is arbitrary. Al-Haq is gravely concerned about arbitrary deprivations of liberty by Palestinian security forces, and calls on all Palestinian authorities to abide by national and international law.