The General Intelligence Service (GIS) in the Gaza Strip arrested Ghassan Abu Hata, Coordinator of the Center for Development Studies- Birzeit University. He was interrogated and subjected to degrading treatment on grounds of a survey study he prepared on youth reality in the Gaza Strip without obtaining permission from the General Controller of the Ministry of Interior.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns the arrest of Abu Hatab and emphasizes that the freedom of scientific research is guaranteed in the local and international law. PCHR stresses that scientific researches do not require a permission from any authority to be conducted, and imposing any procedure on the research institutions contrary to this would be a blatant violation of the right to freedom of scientific research and access to information.
According to PCHR’s follow-up, Abu Hatab said to PCHR’s fieldworker that: ” on Tuesday, 19 February 2019, I received a call from someone working in the Ministry of Interior’s General Controller office, asking me about a survey study for which I filed a permit to the Ministry of Interior in Gaza on 28 January 2019 according to the procedures imposed by the Ministry. I told him that the study was prepared between 10 and 12 February, and he answered that “I should have waited for the response to my permit before conducting the study.” After an hour, another person called me, introducing himself as a GIS officer and ordered me to come to the office tomorrow. I then asked him to send an official letter to the Center, but he answered, “We send summonses not letters.” When I refused to come, he sent me a force to my office to take me to the GIS office in Gaza. The officer ordered me to bring my laptop and cell phone. I was placed in a cell there, and an officer then arrived. While talking to me, the officer’s assistant said to me “stand up when the officer talk to you,” and the officer insulted me saying “you are disrespectful,” forcing me to stand against the wall. I was then admitted to another office, where I was interrogated for 4 hours on the content of the study and the poll questions, which the interrogator described as very serious. He said that you will be detained from 7 to 10 days. He ordered me to give him the numbers of the researchers who participated in the study and the study results and not to publish it by the Center. I was then released after the laptop that has the research results and questionnaires were delivered to them.”
PCHR emphasizes that the academic and scientific research freedom is fundamental and shall never be prejudiced. This freedom falls under the freedom of expression and access to information. Moreover, the freedom of scientific research has a preference over the other forms of expression as all the international standards and national laws confirm that this freedom shall be broader and never be restricted in any way.
PCHR denounces the GIS officers’ violation of the dignity of Ghassan Abu Hatab and such a great Palestinian and national academic entity- Birzeit University, considering what happened as unprecedented.
PCHR emphasizes its outright refusal of the idea of obtaining any kind of permission before conducting survey studies or any journalistic or research work. PCHR emphasizes that any violation of the domestic law and Palestine’s international obligations under Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the General Comment No. 34 on it adopted by the UN Human Rights Committee.
PCHR also refuses the GIS’s decision to ban publishing the survey study on grounds of not obtaining the Ministry of Interior’s permission. PCHR emphasizes that it is an illegal procedure and represents a repression of public freedoms.
PCHR stresses that the respectful scientific and academic institutes’ freedom of scientific research, without any interferences, is one of the people and nations’ significant tools for their advancement. This happens through revealing facts and standards and reaching the results necessary for improving the real life and achieving sustainable development.
PCHR calls upon the Attorney General in Gaza to open a serious investigation into the arrest of Abu Hatab and hold those responsible for his arrest and degrading treatment responsible.
PCHR calls upon the Ministry of Interior to abolish the procedure of obtaining permission from the Ministry before conducting a survey study or poll.
PCHR calls upon the security services in the Gaza Strip to respect the Palestinian law and Palestine’s international obligations according to the conventions which the State of Palestine has acceded to.