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Freedom of Expression and Political Participation are Rights: PCHR Condemns Arrest Campaign against Activists in Gaza

Ref: 05/2018

On Wednesday, the General Intelligence Service (GIS) in the Gaza Strip summoned a number of young activists on grounds of calling for demonstrations to support the Palestinian national reconciliation, and then ordered them not to participate in the demonstrations.

PCHR condemns these arrests and confirms that the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and political participation are guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law, particularly articles 19 and 26, and should not be confiscated under any pretext. PCHR also calls upon the government in in Gaza to respect law and international standards relating to freedom of expression, mainly articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as Palestine is a State Party to the Covenant.

According to PCHR’s follow-up, on Wednesday, 03 January, 2018, the General Intelligence Service in the northern Gaza Strip sent summonses to a number of youth activists, who call for protests to support the Palestinian reconciliation at 16 :00 on Thursday, 4 January 2018, at al-Trans intersection in the center of Jabalia Refugee Camp, north Gaza Strip. The General Intelligence Service ordered the activists to refer to the (GIS) office.

The summoned persons were identified as:

  1. Mo’een Yousef Ahmed Abu Shkiyan (47);
  2. Mohamed Nafiz Ahmed al-Talwli (25);
  3. Hamza Kamal Ibrahim Hammad (23);
  4. Yaser Abed Rabbou Ibrahim al-‘Atawnah (45);
  5. Mohamed Ziyad Abdullah Abu al-Qumsan (36);
  6. Salah Yousef Mohamed Kalash (20);
  7. ‘Amer ‘Awni Mohamed Ba’lousha (25); and
  8. Abdullah Mohamed Abu Shariekh (54).

It should be noted that all the above mentioned activists are from Jabalia Refugee camp, except the activist ‘Amer ‘Awni Mohamed Ba’lousha, who is from Beit Lahia Housing Project.

Some of the activists responded to the summonses and were questioned for hours. They were then released after signing a pledge not to participate in demonstrations. However, other activists preferred not to refer to the (GIS) office and left their houses for fear of being arrested.

PCHR reiterates its rejection of summonses policy pursued by the government in Gaza to undermine the freedom of expression and right to political participation in all it means, including the right to peaceful assembly.

PCHR stresses that the right to peaceful assembly requires only a written notice either to the governor or the police chief before it is organized according to Article 3 of the Public Meetings Law No. 12 /1998. Moreover, the violation of this condition is not enough to disperse a demonstration or arrest its organizers, unless riots occurred in the demonstration.

PCHR also stresses that calls for demonstrations can’t be considered a crime or a reason for summoning. The call for peaceful demonstration, even if it violated the procedures, does not constitute a crime in itself.

PCHR calls upon the Attorney General to take immediate action in order to  end the summonses phenomenon without warrants issued by the Attorney General and without a real basis for the existence of a crime or a case that require the summoning.

PCHR also calls upon the security services in the Gaza Strip to respect the Palestinian law and public freedoms and to abide by the Criminal Procedure Code and the Palestinian Basic Law.