On the morning of 10 January, the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Force (PSF) arrested Mazen Abu Aoun, a lawyer for Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and long-time human rights defender, at his office in Jenin.
During the arrest operation, the PSF confiscated the confidential legal files of Palestinian prisoners represented by Mr. Abu Aoun on behalf of Addameer, as well as his cell phone. The PSF also seized further legal files, three computers, a printer and CD-ROMs in a simultaneous raid on his home.
Following his arrest, Mr. Abu Aoun was taken to the PSF headquarters in Jenin, where he was prevented from contacting his family or Addameer to inform them of his arrest. During his ten-hour-long detention, he was subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, which included being made to stand for one hour with his arms held above his head and his hands against a wall.
The Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organizations (PCHRO) is greatly concerned that Mr. Abu Aoun’s arbitrary arrest sets a dangerous precedent in the increasing harassment of human rights organizations by the PSF and constitutes a further obstruction to these organizations’ work to defend Palestinian civil society.
Mr. Abu Aoun’s arrest was a clear violation of a number of provisions of Palestinian law, including the Palestinian Basic Law, the Code of Criminal Procedures No. 3 of 2001, and Act No. 3 of 1999 on the Organization of the Legal Profession. It further constitutes a violation of Articles 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The PSF did not inform the Palestine Bar Association of Mr. Abu Aoun’s arrest and no Bar Association representative was present during his arrest, as required by Article 20 (1) (d) of Act No. 3 of 1999 on the Organization of the Legal Profession;
The PSF did not present Mr. Abu Aoun with an arrest warrant as required by Article 11 (2) of the Basic Law and Article 29 of the Code of Criminal Procedures No. 3 of 2001;
The PSF did not provide a search warrant for the inspection of Mr. Abu Aoun’s office and home as required by Article 11 (2) of the Basic Law and Article 39 (1) in the Code of Criminal Procedures No. 3 of 2001;
The PSF’s confiscation of Mr. Abu Aoun’s legal files, computers and cell phone took place without a judicial ruling as required by Article 21 (4) of the Basic Law;
The confiscation of the legal files of prisoners represented by Mr. Abu Aoun constitutes a breach of the confidentiality between lawyers and their clients in contravention of Principle 22 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers of 1990, which states that “Governments shall recognize and respect that all communications and consultations between lawyers and their clients within their professional relationship are confidential”.
Although the PSF later apologized to Mr. Abu Aoun and indicated that it would also extend an apology to Addameer, this has yet to happen.
Accordingly, the PCHRO calls on the PSF and the Palestinian Authority to:
Respect human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
Respect the rule of law and ensure its respect by law enforcement officials;
Condemn the PSF’s actions and hold all those who participated in the arrest accountable for their actions;
Ensure that lawyers and human rights defenders can perform their work without intimidation, hindrance, harassment, or any other improper interference;
Immediately cease any illegal or arbitrary interference in the work of human rights organizations.
In light of the Palestine Bar Association’s objectives of strengthening the rule of law and ensuring respect for human rights, the PCHRO also calls on the Association to fulfill its duty to protect lawyers and ensure that they are able to carry out their work effectively.
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
Aldameer Association for Human Rights
Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
The Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinians’ Rights in Jerusalem
Defence for Children International–Palestine Section
Ensan Center for Human Rights and Democracy
Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights
Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies
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