Political Participation is Constitutional Right
The security services in the Gaza Strip arrested activists and summoned others on grounds of organizing and participating in peaceful protests against the aggravating electricity crisis in Gaza; the most recent was summoning 3 activists on grounds of participation in the protests and their posts on social media. PCHR closely followed up the developments related to the electricity crisis protests. PCHR is also concerned and condemns use of the security solution to deal with the protests as this undermines the right to political participation and public freedoms and pushes youth towards reluctance of practicing such rights.
On 28 January 2017, the General Investigation Service (GIS) handed summonses to a number of civilians namely ‘Abdullah Mohammed Abu Sharekh (45), a teacher, ‘Amer ‘Awni Ba’aloucha (25), a trainee lawyer, and Sa’id Heidar al-‘Eilah (23), a university graduate; all of them are from the northern Gaza Strip. They were summoned on grounds of their participation in the protest organized in Jabalia refugee camp on 12 January 2017 against the electricity crisis. The three civilians were detained for one day and released on the next day after investigating with them about their participation in the protests and posts on Facebook. Some of them signed a pledge to abide by the law.
Those summonses came although on 16 January 2017the security services pledged to the national and Islamic factions to close the file of electricity crisis protests, release all the prisoners and not to chase any of them.
The Gaza Strip witnessed series of protests after the electricity crisis aggravated. The first protest was organized in Rafah City on 06 January 2017, when the police dispersed around 20 civilians in al-Nejmah Square. The protest then continued to spread and reached the central Gaza Strip on the next day when a protest of 200 civilians went out in al-Bureij refugee camp.
On 12 January, the biggest protest was in the center of Jabalia from which thousands of protestors made their way to the Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation (GEDCo) building. On 14 January, many protests spread across the Gaza Strip, including Jabalia, Gaza City and Khan Younis.
During those protests; in general all of which were peaceful but with some unacceptable excesses by the protestors, the police shot in the air and arrested and beat up the protestors, including journalists, without taking into consideration the principle of proportionality.
Moreover, dozens of young men were arrested during and after the protests. The security services raided houses of youth activists and arrested dozens of them while they chased others.
PCHR emphasizes that the right to peaceful assembly is constitutionally guaranteed for civilians according to Article 26 (5) of the Palestinian Basic Law and the Public Meetings Law no. 12/1998. Moreover, Article 27 of the Palestinian Basic law guarantees the freedom of media and journalism within the Palestinian Authority; in addition, Article 19 of the same law that ensures the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
PCHR emphasizes that maintaining security is not by silencing civilians or undermining the right to peaceful assembly.
PCHR reiterates its absolute refusal of any security summonses on opinion grounds and calls upon the Attorney General to carry out their duty related to observing the security services, especially the summonses.
PCHR stresses that summons is an exclusive authority for the Attorney General, so the security services do not have the right to issue any summons. Moreover, the summons issued by the Attorney General should include the charge.
PCHR also condemns the ongoing summonses on grounds of the electricity crisis protests and use of the security solution. PCHR hereby warns of the consequences on the overall rights and public freedoms.
Therefore, PCHR calls upon the security services to abide by the law, stop the summonses on opinion grounds and not to assault the right to peaceful assembly or the participators. This does not undermine the security services’ power to punish those violating the law and bring them to justice but within the limits of using the disproportionate force and respect the law and human dignity.