Ref: 51/2016

The Palestinian security services in the Gaza Strip banned “Patriots to End the Split” Conference that was scheduled on Saturday, 15 October 2016. The conference was organized by a group of public figures that declared it aim at putting an end to the Palestinian split. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns this attack and stresses that peaceful assembly is protected by the law, especially the 2003 Palestinian Basic Law. Moreover, PCHR calls upon the authorities in Gaza to respect the law and public freedoms.

According to PCHR’s follow-up and statements of the organizers, the Director of the Palestinian Society for Heritage Protection in Beit Lahia received a phone call from the Palestinian Internal Security Service (ISS) in the northern Gaza Strip at approximately 23:30 on Friday, 14 October 2016. The Society’s Director was informed of the ban on the conference to be held the next day and was told to inform the invitees. He was not able to inform the invitees of the ban because there was not enough time. At approximately 09:00, the next day, (Saturday), while the attendees were coming, ISS force arrived at the place and received back-up as the attendees number increased up to 150 persons. The Society’s administration was ordered to empty and close the hall. According to the organizers, orders were obeyed.

PCHR follows up with concern attacks carried out by security services on public freedoms without any legal justification. PCHR further highlights that the right to peaceful assembly and the right to hold private meetings without the police presence are constitutional rights in conformity with article 26 of PBL.

PCHR reminds that holding peaceful assemblies in closed places does not require a prior permission or even a notification. Thus, any attempt to impose such permissions as a condition for holding these assemblies violates the law and right to peaceful assembly.

PCHR reiterates that only public meetings in open areas require a notification in case the participants are more than 50 according to Article (1) of Public Meetings Law No. 12/1998.  PCHR also emphasizes that the notification does not mean taking permission, so the authorities do not have the right to ban the meeting, but only has power to change its place for reasonable grounds relevant to the public order.

PCHR stresses that according to the constitution and domestic law in addition to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the PA acceded in 2014, the PA in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is obliged to protect the freedom of peaceful assembly and political participation.

PCHR is concerned over reinforcement of restrictions imposed on freedoms, particularly the freedom of peaceful assembly.  PCHR also calls upon Hamas Movement and the Change and Reform Bloc in Gaza to pressurize the security services, especially ISS, to respect the law and public freedoms.

PCHR calls upon the authorities in Gaza to respect the law and not to violate freedoms.  PCHR also urges the Attorney General in Gaza to open an investigation in the incident, constituting it as a misuse of power.