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Date posted: August 05, 2020
By MIFTAH

Ramallah 29/7/2020 MIFTAH recently held a zoom session on Violations of freedom of opinion and expression during the state of emergency which discussed the authorized powers during this state of emergency and the restrictions and powers pertaining to freedom of opinion and expression. The meeting was part of a series of meetings targeting a group of human rights lawyers and members of MIFTAHs Palestinian Political and Social Active Youth Network. It aimed at shedding light on the direct impact of emergency legislation on civic spaces and the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression given the increase in violations and restrictions imposed on these freedoms whether by individuals or state institutions.

In his presentation, Dr. Omar Rahhal confirmed that freedom of expression is a right for all citizens irrespective of their social groups, sectors and values. He maintained that there are still some people in our society that allow themselves titles such as advisors, imams and scholars in order to pass judgement without accepting peoples differences. This is why freedom must be socially protected even before legal protection. Socially, we are still at odds and until now, we are incapable of fully embracing freedom of opinion and expression. We do not embrace freedom of opinion in our social or cultural structures. Whats more, this freedom is not maintained at the practical level from a constitutional or legal standpoint.

He concluded by saying, We need an inviting social culture that accepts the opinion of the other. Also, the law is a social necessity and an expression of social and economic development.

Mahmoud Abu Sway stressed in his intervention that the declaration of the state of emergency constitutes a violation of the Basic Law. We have many other tools we could use to deal with the emerging conditions resulting from the coronavirus outbreak. He continued, Every person has the right to express their opinion on all issues and any violation of this right is considered a crime with no statute of limitation on lawsuits. It is a crime for law enforcement has the right to demand civil compensation from the perpetrator.

Abu Sway stressed on the need to employ educational tools in forwarding a culture of human rights. We lack a culture of rights and public freedoms and we must have monitoring tools within all social sectors. This means there must be an active Palestinian judiciary system to protect rights and public freedoms with a focus on the personal independence of judges whereby no party can interfere in their work, he said. Abu Sway also maintained that the true role of constitutional courts is to protect rights and public freedoms. A real judiciary has an important role in this regard.

On her part, attorney Wala Abu Asab said, There are challenges everywhere for lawyers when it comes to violations. Practically speaking, our problem regarding freedom of opinion and expression starts from square one, which is the home. Then comes the role of schools, universities and civil society organizations because of the importance of their role in solidifying respect for civil values and freedoms, especially freedom of opinion and expression.

The participants interventions revolved around entrenching a culture of rights and respect for freedoms by bolstering cooperation between young lawyers and other youth forums active in the various fields. They expressed their mutual concern on solidifying civil and democratic values in Palestinian society with the ultimate goal of realizing a social culture that respects freedoms, pluralism and differences. It should be mentioned that MIFTAH seeks to continue this dialogue, organized at level of rights organizations and decision makers, by bringing in activists and encouraging their participation.

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