Ref:
42/2015

 

The
security services of the Interior Ministry in Gaza continue to impose arbitrary
restrictions on the formation and activities of various types of associations.  The intervention affected all the work fields
of the associations, including its structure and agenda.  These steps are taken aside from the unity government
although more than one year has passed on the formation of this government,
which does not practice its duties in the Gaza Strip.

 

The
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) documented a number of cases
regarding the arbitrary intervention in the associations’ affairs since the
beginning of this year in the Gaza Strip. 
These cases are related and consistent with a long series of
restrictions imposed on the associations since the establishment of the
Palestinian Authority (PA) and increased in light of the Palestinian
division.  The latest case documented by
PCHR was the blatant intervention by the Ministry of Interior in Gaza against
Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP) when the aforementioned
association conducted an internal administrative process, which included
restructuring.

 

According
to a complaint filed by a number of workers in the association to the Ministry
of Interior, the
 General Directorate
of Public Affairs and Non-Governmental Organizations in Gaza decided to
"form a committee to consider the complaints and evaluate the integrity of
the methodology, through which the restructuring process was conducted, and the
integrity of measures taken to maintain grades of the employees."

 

PCHR stresses that this decision constitutes a
blatant intervention into the associations’ affairs and the judiciary is the
competent authority to deal with such issues for those who wish to appeal an
administrative decision.

 

PCHR also emphasizes that the Ministry of
Interior does not have the powers regarding such practice, which clearly
violates the Palestinian law.  Moreover,
the Interior Ministry’s measures exceeded its powers even under the amendments
previously made by the government in Gaza to the Executive
Bill of the Law of Associations, which was criticized
and challenged by PCHR at that time.

 

The
decision is undoubtedly a clear violation of the international standards, which
call for the independence of the associations and their right to privacy and
manage their affairs without any interventions especially from the Ministry of
Interior.

 

This
is also ensured by the third paragraph of article 46 of the 2003 Associations’
Law as it states that "No
official body
has the right to intervene in the
association’s
meetings, elections, or activities or to influence it"

 

Moreover,
the Associations’ Law does not give the Ministry of Interior the power to
monitor the associations’ work, but the competent ministry, whose specialty is
the main activity of the association, is the entity authorized to monitor the
associations within certain limits that do not detract from their independence
as stipulated in Article (6) of the aforementioned law and ensured by the
Executive Bill especially Articles (7) and (9).

 

It
should be mentioned that the former Gaza government used the laws to offer a
legal cover-up for the violations practiced on the ground.  The most prominent of these violations was
the former Gaza Council of Ministers’ decision no. (229) in 2011 regarding the
amendment made to the Executive Bill of the Associations’ Law.  This amendment gives the Ministry of Interior
a power that is almost the same power of the competent ministry, so the authority
in Gaza misused it to impose restrictions on the associations.

 

It
should be mentioned that on 07 June 2012, PCHR filed a petition at the Supreme
Court in Gaza, with its constitutional capacity, to cancel this amendment,
which violates the rule of law principle and separation of powers.  However, the court unjustifiably decided its
lack of jurisdiction.

 

PCHR
closely follows up all the measures taken by the Ministry of Interior in Gaza
and emphasizes the following:

1. The
civil society cannot perform its assigned role without enjoying its rights to
existence, independence and privacy.

2. All
laws and decisions issued under the division are unconstitutional.

 

PCHR
believes that the civil society’s freedom is a prerequisite for building a proper
democracy, and:

1. Calls
upon the General Directorate of Public Affairs and Non-Governmental
Organizations in the Gaza Strip to abolish the decision issued to form a
committee to follow up the decisions made by GCMHP’s board of directors and
those affected must head to the judiciary, which is the competent body
authorized to solve such work problems and not the Ministry of Interior.

2. Calls
upon the Ministry of Interior to stop intervening in the associations’ affairs
and abide by the law and international standards of the right to freedom of
associations.

3. Calls
upon the civil society to raise the joint work to the highest levels to stand
against the continued attempts by the PA in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to
undermine the civil society and marginalize its role.

4. Demands
the abolishment of all decisions and laws related to associations issued under
the division.

5. Stresses
the importance of engaging the civil society organizations in any laws or
decisions issued to regulate them and their work.