Officers of the Palestinian Internal Security Service (ISS) raided the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Department for Refugee Affairs in Gaza City. They attempted to confiscate the office contents and close it before many parties intervened to stop them. Those officers then banned the PLO’s National Labor Department from convening in the Refugee Affairs office. The Palestinian Center for Human Right (PCHR) condemns the attack on the Refugee Affairs Department and confirms that what happened violates public freedoms, especially freedom of political participation, and the Gaza authorities’ obligations under the Palestinian and International Law.
According to Mahasen Abu Jaber, Director of the office of Refugee Affairs Department’s head, at approximately 11:00 on Sunday, 09 April 2017, armed ISS officers dressed in civilian clothes raided the Department office. They ordered the staff members to leave as they have orders to close the office. When the officers were asked to show the order, they said we don’t have. The officers then forced the staff to leave the office and collected all the PC sets as a prelude to confiscate them. After that, the officers ordered Dr. Zakaria al-Agha, Head of PLO’s Department for Refugee Affairs, to hand over the office’s keys and then leave, but he refused so and made some calls. As a result, the ISS officers left the office without confiscating the PC sets, but confiscated the surveillance camera and its DVR. It should be noted that Dr. Zakaria al-Agha was warned of not allowing the National Labor Department to convene at the Refugee Affairs Department’s office.
It should be mentioned that the National Labor Department is a coalition of PLO factions in Gaza, headed by Dr. Zakaria Al-Agha, and was formed upon Decision No. 328 of 2007 issued by the PLO President and President of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
PCHR condemns the attack on PLO institutions, considering it as a violation of international standards relevant to the right to political participation and its components, including the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees the freedom of peaceful assembly and association, including the formation of political parties stipulated in Articles 21 and 22, according to which the PA in the West Bank and Gaza Strip should respect these rights.
PCHR affirms that ISS officers’ conduct is considered as an abuse of power and unlawful as according to the law, the institutions should be only raided upon a decision issued by the Attorney General. In addition, the closure of these institutions should be upon a judicial decision. PCHR considers raiding the Refugee Affairs Department without abiding by law is considered as a crime of abuse of power.
PCHR also clarified that the freedom of political participation, including the formation of political gatherings and parties, is a right that should not be violated in any case. Furthermore, the decision to ban the National Labor Department’s work is a violation of the international standards and law, especially Article 26 of the Basic Law, which guarantees the freedom of political participation in all its form.
PCHR calls upon the Attorney General in Gaza to investigate seriously the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice. PCHR also calls upon the Security Services in the Gaza Strip to respect the law.