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Compliance with Preventive Measures and Quarantine is a Legal and National Responsibility, PCHR Calls Upon Civilians to Abide, and Police to Respect the Law

Ref: 87/2020

Date: 5 September 2020

Time: 11:00 GMT

 

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) follows the developments pertaining to the measures imposed by the authorities in light of the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the Gaza Strip, and praises the efforts exerted by security officers in these complicated conditions to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

PCHR stresses that compliance with preventive measures and quarantine is a legal and national responsibility; yet, PCHR confirms that the police should abide by the law with violators, and avoid the arbitrary use of the powers endowed by the state of emergency in a manner that undermines civilians dignity and rights.

During the past week, PCHR monitored several cases of assault against citizens in Khan Younis and Northern Gaza Strip, as policemen severely beat and arrested several citizens. According to PCHR’s documentations, the policemen shaved the heads and tortured many of the arrestees for their disobedience to the imposed curfew to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Latest of these assaults occurred on 03 September 2020 against Mahmoud Barbakh (30), who was severely beaten while returning from Khan Yunis Market; and 2 citizens from ‘Abed al-Bari Family, who were assaulted  while working in their supermarket in Jabalia refugee camp.

Moreover, PCHR documented several cases of arbitrary summonses on grounds of exercising freedom of opinion on social media. On 01 September 2020, an internal security force arrested ‘Abdullah Ibrahim Howihi (35) from his house in Beit Hanoun, on grounds of  criticizing the aid distribution on social media. Howihi was released on 03 September 2020.

Also, on 29 August 2020,  the General Intelligence Service summonsed journalist Mohammed Isma’il al-Hadad on grounds of his post  on  social media about corruption and fair distribution of aid. They also interrogated him and charged him with “inciting against the government”.

Al-Hadad was released on the same day, provided that he would return the next day to appear before the Public Prosecution, but his case file was closed without further measures.

PCHR stresses that the circumstances of the spread of corona pandemic require the security services to impose special measures and citizens should abide by them. The state of emergency gives the authorities exceptional powers, including restricting some rights and freedoms, provided that this restriction is within the limit of the declared goal of the state of emergency according to Article (111) of the Palestinian Basic Law:

” It is not allowed to impose restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms when declaring a state of emergency except to the extent necessary to fulfill the purpose stated in the decree declaring the state of emergency.”

PCHR also stresses that there are rights that cannot be restricted in any state or time, especially the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as stated by Article (7) of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Therefore, PCHR condemns any abuse of exceptional powers used by authorities in this state, which offends the great efforts of the competent authorities to combat the spread of this pandemic. In the same context, PCHR condemns any violation by citizens of the preventive measures to combat the spread of corona pandemic.

PCHR affirms that using violence against citizens on the streets and detention facilities and barber shops are classified within torture and inhuman and degrading treatment criminalized by international and national law at all cases, including the state of emergency.

Therefore, PCHR calls upon the Attorney General to monitor the extent to which the executive authorities comply with the limits of powers granted in the state of emergency and direct the competent authorities to ensure that police officers respect the law and human dignity in treatment of citizens.