Date: 16 March 2011
Time: 12:00 GMT
PCHR Condemns Forceful Dispersal of Peaceful Assemblies in Gaza
Yesterday, Tuesday, 15 March 2011, thousands of Palestinians gathered in al-Katiba Square and the Unknown Soldiers Square in the west of Gaza city. The protestors were demonstrating for an end to the ongoing political fragmentation in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT). These demonstrations were organized in response to several calls that were made earlier by young Palestinians, including on the Facebook website.
According to investigations conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), incidents witnessed by PCHR fieldworkers and statements by eyewitnesses, at approximately 19:00 on 15 March 2011, a large number of persons in civilian clothes carrying sticks and clubs deployed among the demonstrators in al-Katiba Square. Some of these persons were armed and some were riding motorcycles. They demolished tents that were installed by demonstrators, the Palestinian Bar and the Palestinian Press Syndicate. They attacked the demonstrators and beat them using sticks and clubs in an effort to disperse them.
The police immediately intensified their presence in the scene. In conjunction with the recently arrived persons in civilian clothes, they chased the demonstrators into nearby streets and bystreets. They also chased female demonstrators, detaining them in two nearby locations. They beat them using their hands, legs, sticks and clubs, and were verbally abusive. Some of the female demonstrators sustained bruises throughout the body. PCHR strongly condemns these attacks against women. According to what PCHR fieldworkers witnessed, members of the police and supporting persons who were moving on motorcycles and cars with dark glass not carrying registration plates severely beat demonstrators who were fleeing the scene through bystreets with their hands, sticks and clubs.
The police chased press photographers and reporters working for news agencies who were present at the scene, confiscating a number of cameras. A number of journalists were severely beaten and sustained bruises and fractures. Mohammed al-Baba, AFP photographer, was severely beaten and sustained a fracture in his left hand as a result.
The Police installed many checkpoints in a number of streets in Gaza city, from which cars were searched. Available data indicates that the police arrested a number of young Palestinians while returning to their homes.
In the evening, the Ministry of Interior published a press release in which the Ministry states that: “The members of the groups who were in al-Katiba Square were mostly members of Fatah movement, specifically members of the former security services…. They tried to use the demonstration in order to spark chaos. They called inflammatory statements against the government. The security forces intervened to disperse the crowd and compel Fatah members to respect security and to respect the law.”
However, PCHR fieldworkers and others at the scene affirm that the assembly in al-Katiba Square was a peaceful assembly. The demonstrators did not carry any factional slogans or flags.
PCHR condemns the use of force to disperse, beat and insult demonstrators, including women and children, in al-Katiba Square by members of the police and persons in civilian clothes. PCHR also condemns attacks against journalists and
1. Stresses that the right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law and by international human rights instruments.
2. Stresses that it is necessary to take measures necessary to enable journalists to perform their duties freely as a way to enhance the right to freedom of opinion and press freedoms which are guaranteed in the Constitution and in international human rights instruments. PCHR notes that beating journalists and confiscating their cameras constitutes an attempt at repression, aimed at suppressing information.
3. Strongly condemns the detention of protestors, including women, by members of the police and persons in civilian clothes, beating them with hands; sticks and clubs and verbal assault.
4. Calls upon the government in Gaza to open serious investigations into attacks against the demonstrators, and especially into the participation of persons in civilian clothes who do not have any legal capacity in attacking the demonstrators, and to publish the results.
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 – 2825893
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