The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) follows with deep concern the serious repercussions of incidents occurring in the Gaza Strip since Thursday, 14 March 2019, on grounds of peaceful protests. These protests were organized upon calls by the “we want to live” popular movement against the high prices and violations of human rights by security services and gunmen. Moreover, hundreds of civilians were arrested and pursued, in addition to being severely beaten, interrogated and tortured. Further, dozens of the arrestees were referred to the Military Judiciary. PCHR condemns these attacks and emphasizes that the right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed in the Palestinian Basic Law and Public Meetings Law and according to the relevant international human rights standards.
Over the last five days, PCHR monitored and documented dozens of affidavits by victims and eyewitnesses, stressing the arrest of hundreds of civilians, including children, women and elderlies, on grounds of participating in the last peaceful protests across the Gaza Strip. Some of them were arrested by security officers while participating in the protests while dozen others were arrested after pursuing them, brutally raiding their houses, and physically assaulting their residents, including children, women and elderlies. PCHR also documented the arrest of others after summoning them either by written summonses or by phone calls. Many journalists were also arrested on grounds of covering the protests and youth movement; some of them were beaten and their equipment was destroyed. PCHR also documented the arrest of civilians from hospitals though they sustain fractures, bruises and wounds due to being beaten up by the security officers. Dozens of arrestees were transferred to illegal detention centers that do not belong to the competent authorities according the law. In all cases, dozens of arrests were subject to degrading treatment, including severe beating, breaking their limbs, stripping them of clothes and pouring water on them in addition to shaving their heads. As a result, some of them were hospitalized. A number of arrestees were released after forcing them to sign pledges not to participate in the peaceful protests while others are so far under arrest.
In a very serious development that prejudices the right to fair trial, dozens of civilian arrestees were referred to be tried before the Military Judiciary, and the official authorities refuse to comment on these referrals. Moreover, the military judicial authorities refuse to give any information on the number of those referred to the military judiciary or the charges against them. Further, representatives of human rights organizations were not allowed to visit the arrestees as over the last few days, PCHR’s lawyers have attempted to hold a meeting with the Head of the Military Judiciary or his office director to follow up the arrestees’ conditions, but both of them refused. In addition, the Military Police refused to allow PCHR’s staff to visit the arrestees. In this regard, PCHR fears that some of those arrested underwent unfair trials.
PCHR emphasizes that attacking peaceful protesters is a crime and violation according to the national and international laws. 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 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.
PCHR also calls upon the security services to immediately release all the arrestees, make reparations to those wounded, and hold the perpetrators from the security services accountable.
PCHR Calls upon the Attorney General to immediately intervene to stop referral of civilians to the Military Judiciary as this violates the constitutional standard provided in Article (30) of the 2003 Palestinian Basic Law stipulating that: “Submitting a case to court is a protected and guaranteed right for all people. Each Palestinian shall have the right to seek redress in the judicial system”, and the judicial system for civilians is the regular courts and not the military.
PCHR emphasizes that detention of civilians in detention places not belonging to the Law Enforcement services is illegal.