Thousands of Palestinians Detained for Political Protest Over 50 Years of Occupation

A Palestinian youth arrested by Israeli troops in occupied West Bank. (Photo: Tamar Fleishman, PC file)

Sunday marked 50 years since the Israeli government issued Military Order 101, a “draconian law” that has been used to suppress Palestinian political expression in the occupied West Bank for decades, Amnesty International said in a statement marking the anniversary.

Unless given prior authorization from an Israeli military commander, 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 – including 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.

Using this order, Israeli authorities have, over the past five decades, arrested and detained hundreds of thousands of Palestinians – including women and children – for attending peaceful protests that were deemed by Israeli forces to be political.

Amnesty International highlighted the cases of Issa Amro, founder of the Hebron-based group Youth Against Settlements, and Hebron-based lawyer Farid al-Atrash, who is the head of the southern division of Palestinian statutory watchdog Independent Commission of Human Rights, who were both arrested for participating in a peaceful protest in February 2016, as an example of the order in effect.

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 offense.

Additionally, Military Order 101 bans the display of flags or emblems, and the publication of any document or image with politically significant content, without a permit from an 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, highlighting that one of the charges against Issa Amro relates to him attending a protest while wearing a T-shirt with “I have a dream” written on it, and waving the Palestinian flag.

Additionally, anyone breaching Military Order 101 can face imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or a hefty fine, the statement said, adding that virtually all cases of Palestinians brought before Israeli military courts end 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.”

In April, Palestinian rights groups released a joint report saying that Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967.

(Maan, Amnesty International, PC)

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