Ref: 17/2007

Date: 13 March 2007

Time: 11:30 GMT

Alan Johnston! Sorry…They are not Part of Us

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns the kidnapping of Alan Johnson, BBC correspondent in Gaza City, yesterday, and considers this crime a flagrant violation of the freedom of expression. In addition, PCHR views this crime as a return to the state of lawlessness in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. PCHR reiterates its call for the Palestinian National Authority, represented by the Attorney-General, to effectively investigate this crime and other kidnappings of internationals, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 16:45 on Monday, 12 March 2007, four gunmen traveling in a white civilian vehicle intercepted Alan Johnson, 43, a British BBC correspondent, when he was traveling in his private vehicle near the offices of the World Council of Churches in al-Wihda Street in Gaza City. They took him to an unknown destination. It is noted that Johnson has been living in Gaza City for three years, and he is respected for his professionalism and objectivity. He has left a good impression to all those who have dealt with him.

Johnson’s abduction is not only a violation of the right to freedom of expression, but also an illegal assault on his person, and an insult to the Palestinian people, their struggle and their honorable image. If all Palestinian political parties and factions have condemned this crime, then who is the perpetrator?

It is noted that the last kidnapping against an international journalist in the Gaza Strip was on 1 January 2007 and targeted Jimmy Rozeiri, 50, the Peruvian cameraman of France Press. He was released on 7 January 2007 following negotiations with the his kidnappers.

According to PCHR’s documentation, Palestinian groups have perpetrated 27 kidnappings in the past three years targeting 55 internationals, including journalists and relief workers in the OPT. The PNA has failed to pursue the kidnappers in most cases, which has encouraged more kidnappings.

PCHR strongly condemns this crime, and:

         Affirms that these crimes are a violation of basic human rights principles, an assault on the rule of law, and part of the state of lawlessness plaguing the OPT;

         Expresses concern over the way in which the PNA handles these kidnappings, which are usually resolved through mediation and without taking any legal action against the kidnappers despite knowing their identities. PCHR calls upon the PNA to take effective legal action against the state of lawlessness in general, and attacks on internationals in particular, within the framework of the law and international human rights standards;          Looks at this crime with grave concern and considers it as one in a series of crimes perpetrated by irresponsible people against the right to freedom of expression. PCHR calls for protecting journalism, and ensuring that local and international journalists perform their work freely; and

         Calls upon the kidnappers to immediately release Alan Johnson.