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PCHR Condemns Use of Force against Peaceful Protest in Central Ramallah Calling for End of  Sanctions on Gaza Strip

Ref: 61/2018

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), in the strongest terms, condemns use of excessive force by the Palestinian Security Services to disperse a peaceful protest in central Ramallah calling for end of the sanctions and measures against the Gaza Strip.  While stressing the legitimate right to peaceful assembly, PCHR holds the Palestinian Government fully responsible for what happened, particularly that this use of force came after the Palestinian President’s Advisor for Governorates Affairs had issued a circular to all governorates banning giving permits for holding demonstrations during the Eid days.

According PCHR’s investigations and eyewitnesses’’ accounts, following the end of a protest organized by national factions and Palestinian activists against the ongoing sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip in central Ramallah on Tuesday, 12 June 2018,  the organizers called for a similar protest at 21:30 on Wednesday, 13 June 2018, at al-Manarah Square in central Ramallah.  On the mentioned day morning and as seemingly a proactive step, the President’s Advisor for Governorates Affairs issued a circular to all governorates stating “No permits for demonstrations or assemblies that would obstruct citizens’ movement and affect the normal life during holidays will be given out .”

At approximately 21:00 on the same Wednesday, dozens of anti-riot police officers, who were also masked, heavily deployed in central Ramallah and backed by dozens of other security officers, particularly from the Preventive Security and General Intelligence Services, dressed  in civilians clothes.  At approximately 21:30, a group of young men and women arrived on Rokab Street heading to al-Manarah square and chanting slogans calling for end of punitive measures against the Gaza Strip.  When they were seen, the anti-riot forces covering the street moved towards them and started firing gas canisters and sound bombs at them.  They also prevented journalists from covering and photographing the protest and even forcefully pushed a number of them.  The protestors moved backwards while chanting slogans in solidarity with the Gaza strip.  At approximately 22:00, around 40 to 50 officers from the anti-riot forces dressed in civilian clothes and covering their heads with Palestinian Kufiyah  started beating up, kicking and pepper-sprayed the protestors in addition to pulling young women’s hair.  They also detained anyone holding a cell phone and confiscated it.

After dispersing the protest and closing the roads leading to central Ramallah, the security services carried out an arrest campaign against anyone whose face was redden due to use of pepper gas.  They detained them in two buses belonging to the Palestinian police parked at al-Manarah and al-Sa’ah Squares.  Eyewitnesses said that 40 to 50 civilians were arrested and taken to the police stations in addition to confiscating ID cards of those who looked like they took part in the protest and arrived at hospitals for treatment.  They were also ordered to refer to the security services in order to be given their ID cards.

PCHR strongly condemns use of force by Palestinian security services against the participants in the peaceful protest while it stresses the right to peaceful assembly and expression of opinion.  Thus, PCHR calls for:

  1. forming an impartial investigation committee, identifying those who ordered suppression of the peaceful protest, and holding them accountable;
  2. Immediately Abolishing the circular issued by the President’s Advisor for Governorates Affairs for its assault on the rule of law and right to peaceful assembly;
  3. Immediate release of all those who were arrested; and
  4. Respecting Civilians’ right to peaceful assembly and expression of opinion.