Council of Ministers preparing new law on associations
The Palestinian Council of Ministers is preparing a new law on associations through a commission which does not include civil society representation. The objective is to regulate the operations of international and local CSOs to ensure that ‘all funds are directed towards national priorities and needs.’ This review follows on from new instructions from the Ministry of Justice in October 2015 which require CSOs to submit monthly bank statements and minutes of general assemblies to the authorities. Palestinian organisations in East Jerusalem are also subject to the Israeli Law of Association, meaning they have to register with and report to two both Israeli and Palestinian authorities in order to be considered legal by each one. Civil society organisations (CSOs) face particular pressure in the form of frequent official demands for information on their finances and staffing. A new law which is currently being discussed in the Knesset is aimed at increased scrutiny and restrictions on CSOs receiving funding from foreign sources. Freedom of association in both Gaza and the West Bank is further restricted because of additional requirements to obtain exit permits for national staff of national and international CSOs and a requirement to obtain licenses to organise a public event.
Military Order 101 continues to violate international law and imposes severe restrictions on Palestinians’ right to freedom of assembly. The order bans assemblies, processions and vigils, which it defines as any gathering of 10 or more people, in a private or public space, expressing views that may be interpreted as “political”. In late April, Israeli security forces used excessive force, during a protest against a road closure in Kafr Qaddum village. Israeli forces fired rubber-coated metal bullets, stun grenades and excessive amounts of tear gas resulting in several serious injuries to demonstrators. Similarly, on 15th June 2016, a peaceful sit-in protest demanding the opening of Qurtuba stairs in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron) by Palestinian, Israeli and international activists was violently broken up by Israeli forces, leaving one Palestinian child injured and 4 activists arrested. The peaceful sit-in protest was organised by Youth Against Settlements in coordination with the families denied access to their homes through the Qurtuba stairs.
Systematic violations of freedom of expression in Palestine continued over the past two months. On 28 March, Israeli ministers publicly threatened leaders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement with “targeted civil elimination.” Since then, the Ministry of Interior has denied a travel permit to Omar Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian activist, thereby imposing a de facto travel ban on him. The Minister also stated that he is considering revoking Barghouti’s Israeli permanent residency permit. In a separate free speech violation, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour has been placed under house arrest and put on trial over a poem posted on YouTube entitled ‘Resist my people, resist.’ Meanwhile, the detention and interrogation of Palestinian journalist and human rights defender Hasan Safadi, was renewed on 3 June. Administrative detentions without charge and trial remain a practice against several Palestinian journalists while others including Sami al-Saee, Samer Abu Aisha and Samah Dweik are imprisoned and charged with “incitement” for publishing on social media.