Force for Rebellion.. Shooting for Gathering [Archives:2000/19/Reportage]

May 8 2000

By: Jamal Al-Adimi
Any observer of legal and legislative development in our country may well have several comments and reservations on the new draft Police Law being currently discussed by the Parliament. Comments start with assignment of “police powers” to the executive authority (article 5) mentioned in article (7-1) which grants the police the right to “arrest criminals” without indicating that such action shall be compliant with law and the constitution.

I believe that after passing this law, the government will not need to issue a law for organizing demonstrations as the new draft included many clauses of the proposed “Demonstration Law” frozen by the Parliament after strong protests by popular and civil society organizations.

Some clauses of this law even contradict the constitution and legal procedures law even in normal times – not only in times of rebellion. It grants the police the right to summon anybody that violates “Public order and security” (clause 8-b), and to arrest, search and inspect any person should there be “strong indications or creditable information” that this person is having something that may threaten public order or security, without needing to have a warrant from the constitution (8-d). This article is an explicit violation of the constitution which does not allow arrest, inspection or breaking into houses without a court order. I believe that inserting the right of inspection and combining it with the right of “stoppage” of citizens is aimed to shed legitimacy and legality on the inspection check-points outside the cities that have been always criticized by legal circles for violating legal procedures law. This law does not allow inspection of citizens without a court order unlike the “stoppage” by the police for ID checking which does not legally reach the extent of “inspection” deemed as violation to the personal freedom protected by the constitution.

Article (d) also states that “Police is entitled to pursue and arrest criminals with whatever means possible”.. and here I am wondering what the phrase “whatever means possible” means. Isn’t it more logical if such “means” were specified.. otherwise shooting and killing might be among these means!

In cases of rebellion and gathering, which I believe was the main reason for formulating this law, the case gets even worse. As Clause (9) grants the right to Police to use force in cases of rebellion to the “extent necessary”, Clause (10), which is the worst in the whole law in my opinion, grants the right to the Police to shoot and use arms to dismantle any gathering including 5 or more persons, if it believes that such gathering shall violate security and order, as if “gathering” is more serious crime than rebellion, and not a constitutional right. The clause does not stop at this. It goes on to state “If police believes that such gathering may cause possible violation of order”, which means that police can shoot on mere suspicion that the ‘gathered group”, altogether they may not be more than five persons. This clause is really strange, as the draft law obligated the Police to use force “to the extent necessary” in cases of rebellion, but allows it to shoot in cases of “gathering and demonstration”. So, gathering which is a constitutional right, is punished with bullets, while rebellion is enough with “necessary extent of force”.. This is most peculiar and surprising.
That was article (L), but articles (a, b, c and d) grant the police the right to shoot at any criminal who was convicted and served three or more months imprisonment, who resists or tries to escape.. Which in actuality covers almost all punishments stipulated by law! And which is an explicit violation of the constitutional provision that punishment shall be compliant with the crime. This clause grants the police the right to shoot in the case of resistance and escape attempts even for minor crimes. The same clause grants the same rights to police in cases where convicts are sentenced to death which is understandable and to those who are sentenced for five years only, which is non-understandable and unacceptable.

The danger in this clause (10) lies in the fact that Police may kill the resisting or escaping convict.. which means sentencing somebody imprisoned for three months to death! How can that be justified.. Pretext of escape is not enough here as its punishment by law is several years, but never execution. Anyhow, the aforementioned clauses cannot be envisioned as being possible to implement in practice. How would the policeman who receives order to pursue an escapee or resistant or to arrest a suspect know the charge or judge the extent of the crime of this or that person, as if the crimes are written on banners hung on the backs of the persons in question. And can we imagine that orders are issued indicating charges and convictions where it is normal that such orders are issued verbally through communication equipment.

The accused are even in a worse position.. as how can the law allow killing a person whose crime is not yet proven, where ruling on his crime even if proven may not reach execution..

Article (11) does not obligate Policemen to shoot “always at non-deadly positions of the body”, but replace the word always with “where possible” which is shameful and dangerous in my opinion. The police job cannot exceed obstructing a convict trying to escape and not killing him, even if he is sentenced to death, let alone those who are imprisoned for three months or even five years when the crime is not yet proven.

I can only express my deepest worries and fears of passing the law in its current form, and call all those interested and involved in legal activities, human Rights, and freedoms activist to work on having a police law that conserves rights and freedoms and respects the form and essence of the constitution.