On 3 September 2017, the Palestinian Authority Preventive Security forces summoned prominent human rights activist and founder of Youth Against Settlements, Issa Amro. They arrested him the next day. Rights organizations said Amro was arrested for a post he shared on Facebook criticizing the arrest of journalist Ayman Qawasmi, who called for the resignation of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to resign.
Amro is no stranger to intimidation at the hands of both the Palestinian Authority and Israel. He is currently facing eighteen charges in Israeli military courts for his nonviolent human rights advocacy.
Amro’s work to defend human rights in Palestine has garnered global attention. Since his arrest, many local and international rights groups called for his immediate release, launching the hashtag #StandWithIssa.
In a statement released shortly before his arrest, Amro insisted that “All my writings on social media are part of the freedom of opinion and expression stipulated by the Palestinian Basic Law and are protected by all international laws and conventions.” Amro added that there are some parties in the PA that are afraid of journalists and activists who call for reform and transparency, as well as those who encourage youth leadership in Palestinian society.
Amro’s summoning and subsequent arrest come on the heels of a chilling Electronic Crimes Law Abbas decreed in June of this year. At the time, journalists, activists, and rights groups slammed the law for its measures against freedom of expression, noting that Abbas would use it to tighten his grip on power.
In a September 6 letter addressed to Abbas, seven U.S. members of Congress demanded Amro’s immediate release. They reminded the PA that it is bound by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 2014 after the United Nations recognized Palestine as a Non-member Observer State.
Amro was released on September 10, but he continues to face PA charges.
Amro’s arrest and the campaign to release him reignited the controversy surrounding the Electronic Crimes Law under the hashtag #NoToElectronicCrimesLaw (لا_لقانون_الجرائم_الإلكترونية#). According to Addameer, Amro has been charged by the PA under Article 20 of the law, which stipulates “anyone who creates or manages a website or an information technology platform that aims to publish news that would endanger the integrity of the Palestinian state, the public order or the internal or external security of the State shall be punished…” with a fine between one thousand dinar [$1,414 USD] and five thousand dinar [$7070 USD], at least a year of jail time, or both.
The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) has been monitoring media violations committed by the Palestinian government against local members of the press. In their August, 2017, report, MADA documented the arrest of 8 Palestinian journalists, three of whom were arrested under the pretext of the newly decreed law.
— Angie Hougas (@AngieForward) September 13, 2017
My arrest last week will not change my work for full equality and an end to occupation . From now I will work even harder
— Issa Amro عيسى عمرو (@Issaamro) September 11, 2017
— CODEPINK (@codepink) September 11, 2017
— IfNotNow (@IfNotNowOrg) September 11, 2017
— CJPIP (@CJPIP1) September 11, 2017
On 04/09 @Issaamro was arrested by Palestinian security forces over a Facebook post. @amnesty is calling for his release! #StandWithIssa
"They want to silence me and silence every voice defending human rights, but they are wrong. I will continue defending human rights and struggling against occupation," #IssaAmro said. #StandWithIssa
You shouldn't be imprisoned simply because you criticize your government. #StandWithIssa
U.S. Rep Mark Pocan steps out to #StandWithIssa and condemns the PA for arresting Issa Amro over a Facebook post.http://jewishinsider.com/12803/rep-pocan-blasts-palestinian-authority-arresting-amro/
— الترا فلسطين (@palestineultra) September 10, 2017
In Solidarity with Issa Amro.
— علي صوتك .. ضد القمع (@PalAgainstCybe) September 9, 2017
Electronic Crimes Law puts an agent of the Palestinian Authority in every home and stifles freedom of expression.
— Anas Amro (@Anas64502470) September 9, 2017
Electronic Crimes Law means that the Palestinian Authority has transformed into a repressive police state.
— Muhanned Qafesha (@2011Qafesha) September 9, 2017
The Electronic Crimes Law is a tool to repress opposition to the Palestinian Authority.
— ْمُصْعَبْ قَفِيْشَة (@musabQ1994) September 9, 2017
The height of disgrace, when you see settlers mocking Palestinians for arresting their own.