The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) follows up with deep concern the security services and police’s attacks against the participants in the peaceful protests, which came out for the second day consecutively in several areas in the Gaza Strip, as the security services attacked the protestors by beating and arresting them in addition to shooting in the air and raiding houses. During the day, police officers beat up the Director of the Independent Commission of Human Rights (ICHR), lawyer Jamil Sarhan, and ICHR’s Lawyer Baker al-Turkmani while the two colleagues were following up the incidents in field in Deir al-Balah Refugee Camp in the central Gaza Strip. PCHR emphasizes that attacking peaceful protesters is a crime and violation according to the national and international laws and calls upon the security services to respect the right to peaceful assembly and right to freedom of expression.
According to PCHR’s investigations, the peaceful protests continued today afternoon, 15 March 2019, in several areas in the Gaza Strip, as the protestors set fire to tires and chanted slogans against the high prices and taxation. Police and security officers attacked those protests by shooting in the air, beating up the protesters, and arresting and taking many of them to police and security stations.
The main incidents of the day were in Deir al-Balah Camp, where hundreds people gathered at around 14:30, set tires on fire, chanted slogans against the high prices and taxes. At the same time, a Pro-Hamas demonstration for Hamas Affiliates, including gunmen, came out holding posters of President Mahmoud Abbas written on them: “’Abbas, Leave” and chanting slogans against him. Clashes broke out between the two demonstrations when some of the pro-Hamas demonstrators shot in the air. Less than half an hour later, police and security forces arrived and shot in the air to disperse the protest against the high prices and beat up its participants, including journalist Mahmoud al-Louh, a reporter for Sha’ab Radio. They also pursued some of the protestors and raided their houses, including houses of journalists and activists, in addition to arresting them. When the police officers raided a house belonging to journalist Osamah al-Kahlout at the entrance to the camp, they found the ICHR’s Director, Jamil Sarhan, and ICHR’s lawyer Baker al-Turkmani, inside monitoring the incidents in field. They beat them up and confiscated their cell phones.
According to the field follow-up, the ICHR’s Director identified himself to the police officers who raided the house, but the police paid no heed and took them outside. When one of the police officers saw Sarhan and his colleague, he attacked him and punched him in the face. Sarhan tried to defend himself, but the police officer severely beat him along with al-Turkmani and al-Kahlout. The police officers then took the 3 of them to the police station and then to the nearby PRCS Hospital for treatment. Sarhan sustained an incised wound to the head, requiring three stitches, while al-Turkmani sustained bruises in the back and hand. Both of them left the hospital after receiving treatment.
The tension continued in the camp until the evening when dozens of police and security officers deployed in the camp and raided houses in search of civilians who participated in the peaceful protests.
PCHR stresses that attacking the two colleagues, Sarhan and al-Turkmani, after raiding the house they were in, is a serious escalation of particular significance, especially that they intended to attack them despite defing themselves. In this regard, PCHR emphaszies that it is the right and duty of human rights organizations and activists to closely follow up incidents and to be present in the field to monitor and document the facts and faithfully convey the truth, which is an integral part of their mission. PCHR asserts that the attack on human rights activists constitutes a blatant violation of human rights.
In several areas in the Gaza Strip, such as the refugee camps of Jabalia, al-Bureij and Nussairat, Khan Younis City and Rafah City, witnessed similar demonstrations, which were dispersed by force by the security and police services. In Jabaliya refugee camp, security and police officers attacked the protestors by beating and pursuing them. As a result, Five people were wounded, including Ra’fat Salha, Director of ICHR’s office in Gaza, who sustained a bruise to the left hand, and journalist Mu’een Mohsen, who sustained bruises in different parts of his body.
PCHR emphasizes that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of opinion and expression is guaranteed in the Palestinian Basic Law and the international human rights standards and stresses that the right to peaceful assembly only requires a written notification to be sent to a Police Director or the Governor according to Article 3 of the Public Meetings Law 12/1998. Moreover, Violating this condition is not enough for dispersing the demonstration or arresting the organizers unless the demonstration included riots.
PCHR Calls upon the Attorney General to open a serious investigation into these incidents, including the attack on ICHR’s Director and his colleague, and bring the perpetrators into justice.
PCHR also calls upon the security services to immediately and unconditionally release the dozens of arrestees.
PCHR also calls upon the competent authorities to take the necessary measures to stop such violations and respect civilians’ public freedoms that are guaranteed constitutionally and according to the international human rights standards.