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PCHR Heads to Palestinian Judiciary to Challenge Beit Lahia Municipality’s Decision to lease Public Property in favor of Private Project

Ref: 139/2019

On Wednesday, 04 December 2019, PCHR headed to the Administrative Court in Gaza to abolish a decision issued by Beit Lahia Municipality to lease a public utility lot (Green area) to others; abolish all the legal ramifications; and restore it as a public utility.  This challenge was attached with an urgent request for a decision to halt all encroachments on public utilities by the Beit Lahia Municipality until the court settles the first complaint submitted by PCHR.

PCHR’s complaint was in response to Beit Lahia Municipality’s decision to allocate and lease a public utility lot, which is classified as a green area according to the regulations of the Ministry of Local Governance in Qleibo area, east of Beit Lahia, in favor of a private plant nursery. This decision was met with the objection of the local community, who approached PCHR to end the damage resulting from the municipality’s decision.

On 24 November, PCHR, as the legal representative of the plaintiffs, filed a complaint to the Beit Lahia Municipality to abolish its decision to privatize a public utility, which violates all laws and regulations that stipulated strict measures in case of privatization.  PCHR’s lawyer also asked for a meeting with the Beit Lahia Mayor regarding this issue, but the latter refused under the pretext that he is busy.

The next day, 25 November 2019. PCHR submitted a similar complaint to the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Local Government against Bait Lahia Municipality. Despite the Ministry’s assertions that the land lot in concern is intended for public benefit as inscribed in organizational and structure maps, Bait Lahia Municipality continues to ignore those facts. To this date, PCHR has not received a written response from either party on the complaints it submitted.

On Tuesday, 03 December 2019, a number of Palestinian citizens, including the leaseholder, accompanied by a police force, installed construction tools, cement, steel and tinplates at the 1,110sqm land lot and proceeded to dig and install steel frames. Community residents, including women, were enraged and gathered to stop the plant nursery’s construction. The present police force requested backups and violently dispersed the gathering under the pretext of enforcing a municipal order. Also, a number of citizens were arrested and taken to the local police station: Fawzi Mohammed al-Aqra’ and his sons Hassan (23); Hussain (24); and Hasan (25); Mohanad Anwar Mohammed Abu-Habel (25); and Fady Anwar Mohammed Abu-Habel (33). Additionally, the Women Police were called into the scene to disperse the women’s gathering.

PCHR continues its follow-up on the case and shall pursue all necessary actions to protect the local community’s rights and interest.