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PCHR Condemns Police Assault on Businessman, Jawdat al-Khudari, in Gaza City & Stresses State of Emergency Does Not Permit Authorizes to Assault Civilians and their Properties

Ref: 23/2020

Businessman, Jawdat Naji Al-Khudari, was assaulted by police officers accompanying the Governor of Northern Gaza, on grounds of his objection to the latter’s violation of the agreement between al-Khudari and the Ministry of Interior in Gaza City regarding the allocation of a part of al-Mathaf Hotel, property of al-Khudari located in northern Gaza, for quarantine. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns this attack and asserts that the state of emergency does not allow authorities to attack the safety and property of civilians and they must abide by the law.

According to al-Khudari’s statement to PCHR: “On 21 March 2020, a person who identified himself as an employee of the Ministry of Interior approached me and informed me that he was delegated by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior in Gaza, Tawfiq Abu Naim, to inform me  that they need the Hotel rooms to be used for quarantine in light of the efforts to prevent the spread of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). We reached an agreement where I offered to divide the hotel into two separate parts, one to be used for quarantine purposes, and the other will be used by the Hotel especially that the hotel contains artifacts, antiques and objects of national heritage. I was surprised when I received a call from hotel staff the following day informing me that the Northern Gaza Governor arrived with police reinforcement and demanded all staff to leave the premises as he did not like the agreement reached with the Ministry of Interior. I rushed to the hotel and was there within minutes. I wanted to enter my property but I was not allowed to. I waited for 15 minutes until I was allowed to enter to see the Governor. One of the police officers said to me: “This is the governor,” and I replied “And Who is this Governor?!” Once I said that, the police officers physically assaulted me with their feet, hands and rifles, put me to the ground and took me out of the hotel. I was accompanied with 2 of my sons and we were all taken to a military site and our cell phones were confiscated. We were detained for 40 minutes and then released. The officers ordered us to go home after they returned our cell phones to us.”

PCHR confirms that this attack is a crime and that the state of emergency does not permit or justify assaulting civilians. PCHR warns that exploiting the state of emergency in this manner would have dire consequences on the safety and stability of citizens, which may undermine the ability of the health sector to confront the danger of this pandemic.

PCHR stresses that even if the emergency state permits the use of some private property of a public nature by authorities, but this should be done in accordance with the law and the owner’s agreement and the later should be appropriately compensated according to the law.  PCHR also warns that mistreatment of private property in such manner would carry dangerous implications for the future of the economy, as it aborts any potential prospective for investment in the Gaza Strip.

PCHR asserts that the national responsibility in these difficult and sensitive times makes it imperative that competent authorities’ officers respect the law more than ever and avoid any manifestation of opportunism and abuse of the powers granted by the state of emergency.

Therefore, PCHR calls for the Attorney General in the Gaza Strip to take action immediately and open an investigation into the incident and hold the officials accountable in order to uphold the rule of law, and to halt the inclination to dominate the public by some security personnel under the guise of the state of emergency.