Gaza Government Prohibits a Sit-in in Solidarity with UNRWA and a Workshop by ICHR – Al Mezan Condemns these Decisions and Calls for Respecting the Law
The Police in Gaza, which is part of the Gaza Government’s Ministry of Interior (MoI), prohibited a sit-in that had been arranged by the Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO) in protest of yesterday’s despicable attack on an UNRWA summer camp site on Gaza beach. The sit-in was scheduled to take place at 12.30pm today opposite the attacked site. In addition, the Internal Security Apparatus, which is also part of the MoI in Gaza Government, prohibited a workshop that had been arranged by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR). The workshop aimed to discuss the reality of human rights and freedoms in Gaza in light of ICHR’s annual report on the issue. Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights condemns the prohibition of these activities and demands that the Gaza Government respect the law.
According to information collected by Al Mezan, a person who identified himself as being from the Palestinian police called PNGO office in Gaza City and informed them that a previously arranged sit-in opposite to UNRWA summer camps site was prohibited. He did not provide any reasons behind the police prohibition of the activity.
A number of the organizers and participants in the sit-in had arrived at the location; however, they were surprised by the heavy presence of the police there. The police prevented them from even standing at the place. Some of the participants informed Al Mezan that members of the police told them that they had strict instructions to prevent the sit-in. It is important to note that PNGO had sent a letter to the chief of the police, in accord with Palestinian law, informing him of the organization of the sit-in.
Officials in ICHR informed Al Mezan that they were surprised when they were informed that a workshop they had planned to conduct today was cancelled. The workshop was supposed to take place at the Grand Palace Hotel under the title ‘The Reality of Rights and Freedoms… a Reading into ICHR 2009 Report’. According to the information collected by Al Mezan, the hotel’s administration called ICHR office in Gaza City at 10.30am today and informed them that they had received a telephone call from the Internal Security Apparatus in Gaza, informing them that the workshop was ‘cancelled’, and that if the workshop was conducted, the hotel would be pursued under the law. Later, ICHR’s manager in Gaza received a telephone call from the Internal Security Apparatus, in which they informed him that the workshop was cancelled. They justified the cancellation by the fact that ICHR had not obtained permission to conduct the workshop, as – allegedly – stipulated by the law.
Al Mezan views the prohibition of these two activities by the security forces in Gaza with great concern. The activities were organized in full compliance with Palestinian law. The conduct of the security forces represents serious infringement upon the freedom of peaceful assembly and free expression, and a violation of the provisions of the Public Meetings Law, number 12 of 1998. It must be highlighted that the organizers of the sit-in did inform the police of the activity. Besides, the ICHR workshop was to take place indoors, which in this case does not require any procedure; not even informing the police.
Al Mezan asserts that the Public Meetings Law provides special protections and arrangements that guarantee citizens’ right to organize public meetings without conditioning them on obtaining prior license. The only procedure required by the law when a public meeting is organized is limited to informing – in writing – the Governor or the Chief of the Police of the meeting at least 48 hours prior to implementing it. In case the organizers do not receive a response, also in writing, they automatically have the right to organize the meeting in the planned time and place. The prohibition of the sit-in also represents a violation of article 26 of the Palestinian amended Basic Law, of 2003, which asserts Palestinians’ right to participate in political life as individuals or groups; and especially their right to conduct private meetings without the presence of the police, and conducting public meetings and marches and assemblies within the limits of the law. Furthermore, article 2 of the above-mentioned Public Meetings Law stipulates ‘citizens have the right to conduct public meetings, seminars and demonstrations freely. It is prohibited to infringe on this freedom or limit it except for the limitations provided for by this law’. (Unofficial translation of the article.)
Al Mezan therefore calls on the Gaza Government to stop these serious developments and procedures which violate public freedoms; particularly the freedom to peaceful assembly, and to guarantee the full respect of the law. These violations must not be allowed to go unnoticed. These kind of violations must not be taken lightly, regardless of their motives.
(Al Mezan Center for Human Rights)
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