Date: 03 June 2009
PCHR Organizes a Workshop on “Road Accidents Caused by Motorcycles”
On Tuesday morning, 2 June 2009, the Economic and Social Rights Unit in the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a workshop on “Road Accidents Caused by Motorcycles in the Gaza Strip.” The workshop was held in PCHR’s sub-office in Khan Yunis, and formed part of PCHR’s activities aimed at protecting and promoting civilians’ right to safety and security of person; fundamental human rights which the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) must ensure and respect. The workshop was organized in response to the increasing number of road accidents caused by motorcycles. Several public figures in Khan Yunis, university professors, academics, representatives of civil society organizations, female representatives of women’s organizations and members of political parties participated in the workshop. In this regard, it should be noted that many reports and complaints have been submitted to PCHR by families of civilians who died or were injured in road accidents caused by motorcycles.
Abdul Halim Abu Samra, Public Relations Officer in PCHR’s sub-office in Khan Yunis, opened the workshop by welcoming the attendants, noting that PCHR seeks to evoke discussion and dialogue regarding the increasing number of road accidents caused by motorcycles in the Gaza Strip. Abu Samra noted that this issue affects the entire population in the Gaza Strip; the consequences of motorcycle accidents endanger civilians’ safety. This situation requires an urgent solution so that the number of casualties arising from road accidents can be reduced.
Khalil Shahin, Director of PCHR Economic and Social Rights Unit, made a presentation entitled “Enforcing and Protecting Civilians’ Right to Safety and Security of Person.” In his presentation, Shahin said that Palestinian civilians’ right to safety and security of person is a fundamental right that must be respected and protected by the PNA. He noted that the right to safety and security of person is connected with the right to freedom of movement across the Gaza Strip. He explained that civilians need to enjoy their right to freedom of movement using different means of transportation for various purposes, including access to workplaces, access to educational and health facilities, family visits and entertainment purposes. To enjoy the right to freedom of movement, security and safety measures must be taken to ensure civilians’ safety and security of person, Shahin added. He said that ensuring such procedures reflects civilians’ enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights. Shahin
noted that it is important for the government to fulfill its duties and take all measures and precautions to protect civilians’ lives and ensure their safety. Such measures include: developing the infrastructure of roads and transportation networks in the Gaza Strip, carrying out continuous supervision over means of transportation on main and branch roads, checking the legal status of private and public vehicles and of drivers, and taking all necessary actions required to protect civilians against road accidents that may take place while moving on roads.
Shahin talked about road accidents caused by motorcycles on Gaza roads as one of the indicators used to measure the level of protection ensured for civilians’ right to life and right to safety and security of person. He explained that at the end of January 2008, huge numbers of motorcycles were trafficked from Egypt via tunnels. He said that there are no confirmed figures regarding the number of motorcycles that entered Gaza, however, the Ministry of Transportation and the Directorate General of the Traffic and Rescue Police estimate the number to between 8,000 – 10,000. Many other sources, indicate that more than 30,000 motorcycles have entered Gaza since the beginning of last year.
“This unprecedented existence of motorcycles in Gaza coincides with the deteriorated state of Gaza’s main and branch roads. While many of Gaza’s main and branch roads are damaged, it seems impossible to repair them due to the continued total closure and the two-year ban imposed on the delivery of materials required for paving roads. In view of these conditions, there has been a significant increase in accidents on Gaza roads caused by various means of transportation, especially motorcycles. Gaza civilians are getting more and more concerned over accidents caused by motorcycles that have imposed real dangers to their lives and safety. It should be noted that there have been many causalities caused by motorcycle accidents, including a number of civilians who lost their lives while others sustained serious injuries and some of them were consequently disabled,” Shahin continued.
Shahin criticized the government in Gaza for not taking any early practical steps or precautions to reduce dangers posed by motorcycles traveling on Gaza roads. Shahin said that statistics indicate that 883 road accidents took place in 2008. Of these accidents, 610 accidents were caused by motorcycles. Shahin explained that motorcycles’ accidents in 2008 resulted in 20 civilian deaths while 837 others sustained injuries. Among the injured civilians, 95 sustained serious injuries, some of whom were permanently disabled as a result. The other injuries included 495 civilians with moderate injuries and 282 with light injuries.
Shahin said: “In 2009, there has been a further significant increase in the number of road accidents caused by motorcycles. By the end of May, 210 motorcycles’ accidents were reported. In these accidents, nine civilians lost their lives while 201 were injured; including 32 civilians who sustained serious injuries and some of them were permanently disabled. It should be noted that medical sources indicate that these figures only represent half of the reality. This is also by Palestinian police sources.” Shahin welcomed the recent measures taken by the government in Gaza, which included establishing a committee to conduct a comprehensive survey of motorcycle accidents and to suggest mechanisms to reduce them.
Colonel Suleiman Khader, Director of the Directorate General of the Traffic and Rescue Police, talked about his Directorate’s vision of reducing accidents caused by motorcycles. He reviewed the practical steps that the Directorate General of the Traffic and Rescue Police has begun to take. Colonel Khader added that since the beginning of the campaign to enforce traffic law with regard with motorcycles, approximately 1,000 civilians have obtained licenses to drive motorcycles. He also noted that during the last few days, more than 6,000 motorcycles were licensed. Colonel Khader called upon the different parties, including conciliation figures; municipalities; universities and the Ministry of Awqaf, to cooperate in order to implement an awareness campaign aimed at reducing traffic accidents caused by motorcycles traveling on Gaza roads. Further, he pointed out that the media plays a major role in making the public aware of risks imposed by driving unlicensed motorcycles or by driving motorcycles by drivers who do not have licenses issued in accordance with the law. Colonel Khader noted that the Directorate General of the Traffic and Rescue Police is keen on applying the traffic law equally on all civilians, including affiliates of political parties. He also stated that more than 100 motorcycles have been confiscated because they were in violation of the law.
Mr. Bahaa’ al-Agha, Director General of the Department of Driving Training Schools and Institutes in the Ministry of Transportation, talked about measures and steps taken by the government to reduce road accidents caused by motorcycles, stating that the Ministry of Transportation has taken a number of measures to regulate the movement of motorcycles and reduce accidents caused by them. He added that the Ministry of Transportation, as the competent body, has held the first meeting of the committee that had been formed by the government in Gaza. He said that representatives from the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Awqaf and Ministry of Youth and Sports participated in this first meeting. Al-Agha added that the Ministry of Transports reduced fees imposed on issuing licenses to encourage motorcycle drivers to obtain licenses for their motorcycles and for themselves. He also added that the Ministry of Transportation has issued 17 licenses to driving training schools and institutes to train those willing to obtain licenses to drive their motorcycles. Al-Agha concluded by calling upon parents of young boys who drive motorcycles to urge their sons to obtain licenses.
At the end of the workshop, the participants discussed in detail failures that the government is required to tackle in order to reduce motorcycles’ accidents. Participants made several recommendations:
· Participants welcomed the measures that the government in Gaza has begun to take, and considered these measures as a positive start. Participants reiterated the importance of enforcing the traffic law and enforcing the rule of law. They called for checking licenses granted to motorcycles and those granted to motorcycle drivers.
· Participants called upon the government in Gaza to develop, in terms of quantity and quality, human resources used by the Traffic and Rescue Police, and to provide these resources with all necessary technical capacities to conduct supervision over traffic on main and branch roads.
· Participants called upon the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to review the phenomenon of motorcycle accidents and its consequences. They also called upon the PLC to review the traffic law and made amendments in accordance with the needs of Gaza civilians.
· Participants held the government responsible for providing precise and accurate statistics and figures relative to road accidents, including providing numbers of casualties caused by motorcycles accidents. Participants noted that the available figures do not reflect reality.
· Participants called upon all segments of the local community to effectively participate in submitting recommendations and solutions that contribute to reducing road accidents caused by motorcycles.
· Participants demanded the government to assume its responsibility to develop main and branch roads, install traffic signs, paint distinguished signs on roads, and specify traveling routes for motorcycles.
· Participants called for implementing a comprehensive awareness campaign on the risks imposed by motorcycles. They called upon universities, media and municipalities to actively participate in alleviating the consequences of accidents caused by motorcycles.
· Participants called upon the government in Gaza to negotiate with national insurance companies to find a mechanism to impose insurance on motorcycles.