Published: 2017-08-27 16:36
Last Updated: 2017-08-27 16:38
Today marks 50 years since the Israeli government issued Military Order 101, a “draconian law” that punishes peaceful Palestinian political expression in the occupied West Bank for decades, Amnesty International said in a statement marking the anniversary, 27 August.
Under the order, unless an Israeli military commander provides authorization in advance, Palestinians in the West Bank are not allowed to attend or organize a procession, assembly, or vigil of 10 or more people for a political purpose.
This includes an event or where a political speech is being made, “or for a matter that may be construed as political, or even to discuss such a subject,” according to the human rights NGO.
The order has enabled Israeli authorities arrest and detain hundreds of thousands of Palestinians over the last few decades, simply for attending peaceful protests that were deemed by Israeli forces to be political.
Amnesty International drew attention to the cases of Hebron-based lawyer Farid al-Atrash and Issa Amro, founder of the Hebron-based group Youth Against Settlements, both of whom have been arrested for attending a peaceful protest in February 2016.
The two are facing a number of charges, one of which is “participation in a march without a permit,” which Amnesty International noted is not an internationally recognized criminal offence.
“The right to freedom of peaceful assembly, along with the rights to freedom of expression and association, are enshrined in human rights treaties to which Israel is a party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” the statement said.
Military order 101 also prohibits the display of flags or emblems, and the publication of any politically significant document or emblem is banned without permission from the Israeli military commander.
“Over the last 50 years, Palestinians have been arrested and detained for displaying a poster in a room, if it was deemed political, and for raising the Palestinian flag,” the statement said.
In the case of Issa Amro, Amnesty International noted one of the charges against him was for attending a protest “without a permit” while wearing a T-shirt with “I have a dream” written on it, and waving the Palestinian flag.
Additionally, “verbal or other expressions of support or sympathy for the activities and aims of any organization deemed illegal under military orders is prohibited,” the statement said. Under Israeli law, this includes many Palestinian political parties and student unions.
“Supporting a political party or a student or trade union that Israel deems to be a ‘hostile organization,’ by waving a flag, singing a hymn, or chanting a slogan in a public place, can get you arrested under Military Order 101,” Amnesty International said.
“In some cases, arrest and detention are accompanied by torture and other ill-treatment. Palestinians from all walks of life, including journalists, students, teachers, farmers, politicians, and drivers, have been affected by this order.”
Anyone in breach of Military Order 101 can face imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or a hefty fine, with virtually all cases of Palestinians brought before Israeli military courts reportedly ending in convictions.
“Most convictions are the result of plea bargains. This is because Palestinian defendants know the entire system is so unfair that if they go on trial, they will be convicted and given a longer sentence.”
According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,128 Palestinians were detained by Israel as of July, 320 of whom were children.