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Al-Haq Calls on Authorities to Clarify Position on the Issue of Wiretapping

Saturday, 20 January 2018 16:13
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Al-Haq is concerned with the recent media reports on the wiretapping and dissemination of individuals’ phone calls. Al-Haq considers that should the aforementioned be proven,it would constitute a grave violation of the right to privacy, guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Palestine acceded to without reservation. It further constitutes a constitutional breach asper Article 32 of the Palestinian Basic Law, and a crime in the existing Penal Code,requiring criminal prosecution and compensation.

A statement issued by the Palestinian Bar Association Council (Council) on 18 January 2018, surrounding the recent legislative and security developments, refers to the case of wiretapping and the dissemination of calls made by members of the Council.

Al-Haq reaffirms the State’s obligation to respect and protect rights provided for in the ICCPR, particularly the right to privacy. Article 17 of the ICCPR states that:

1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy,family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.

2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Al-Haq also reminds of the rights and guarantees protected by the Criminal Procedure Law in Palestine, specifically Article 51:

1. The Attorney General or one of his assistants may seize letters,communications, newspapers, printed matter, parcels and telegrams at post and telegraph officer when such relate to the crime and its perpetrator.

2. He may also tap telephone and wireless communications and record conversations in private places on the basis of an authorization from the conciliation judge when such is useful in revealing the truth in a felony or a misdemeanour punishable by imprisonment for a term of not less than one year.

3. The search warrant or tapping or recording authorization must be reasoned and remains in force for a period of not more than fifteen days, subject to renewal once.

In light of this, Al-Haq warns against the potential crime of wiretapping citizens’ phones and the dissemination of private content. Such practices, often employed by police states,have serious repercussions on citizens’ internationally guaranteed rights. For this reason,Al-Haq calls on the authorities to clarify their position on the issue of wiretapping, open an investigation into the incident, prosecute those involved, and take appropriate and effective measures to ensure and guarantee non-recurrence.