Palestinian groups condemn PA attacks on protesters, journalists

PNN/ Ramallah /

Two Palestinian groups on Monday have condemned the Palestinian security services’ forcible dispersal of a peaceful protest in Ramallah yesterday, which followed a scheduled court session of martyr Bassel Al-Alaraj, who was assassinated by Israeli Forces in his home about a week ago.

The Palestinian Center for Human rights (PCHR) condemned the dispersal which was accompanied with arresting and attacking participants, including journalists, with sticks, heavily firing of tear gas canisters and shooting in the air.

PCHR called for a serious investigation into such attacks and bringing perpetrators to justice, stressing that the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are ensured under the Palestinian Basic Law and international human rights instruments.

According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 12:00 on Sunday, 12 March 2017, Palestinian activists organized a protest in front of the Courts Complex in al-Balou’a neighborhood in al-Bireh as the court was considering the case of Basel al-‘A’raj, who was killed by Israeli forces a week ago, and five others. The protestors stood on the pavement holding pictures of Basel and chanting slogans against the security coordination. The number of protestors then increased, and journalists started to arrive. The street was then closed from both directions, so Palestinian officers arrived at the area and threatened by force the protestors and journalists to stay away and break up the protest.

After a short time, 20 police cars carrying out masked security officers with batons arrived. When the officers stepped out of the cars, altercations occurred between them and the protestors. The security officers then beat up the journalists and protestors and fired sound bombs and tear gas canisters. During this, special police officers and a person dressed in civilian clothes attacked the father of Basel al-A’araj. Moreover, a number of lawyers, including Farid al-Atrash who is a lawyer in the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), were attacked. Many journalists were attacked as well, including Mohammed Abu Shoushah, a photojournalist at Roya Television, and cameras belonging to some satellite channels were broken, including a camera belonging to Jihad Barakat, a reporter at Palestine Today. Furthermore, 6 persons were arrested in the Balou’a Investigation office and an hour later released after taking their personal data. In general, 16 persons were wounded by the security officers, but only 5 of whom were taken to the Palestine Medical Complex.

In this context, PCHR stressed that the right to peaceful assembly is constitutionally guaranteed under Article 26 (5) of the Palestinian Basic Law and in Public Meetings Law No. 12 /1998. Accordingly, PCHRcalled upon the Attorney General to investigate those incidents, including attacking civilians and firing tear gas canisters at them, inspect the security officers’ violations, and hold those responsible accountable; and called upon the government in Ramallah to respect law and civilian’s dignity, stop the security services’ interference into the civil life and to take all necessary measures to respect public and press freedoms that are constitutionally ensured under the international human rights standards.

In addition, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms “MADA” expressed its deep concern and strong condemnation of all violations committed by Palestinian security apparatuses against journalists, demanded an investigation to hold perpetrators accountable.

Noting that, similar assaults had been frequently repeated, without any penalization of the perpetrators.
At least 4 journalists were exposed to immense assaults and attacks, using cudgels by Palestinian police, and different Palestinian apparatuses, despite the fact that, all journalists IDs were known by the security forces and police. Moreover, other journalists and civilians were indiscriminately exposed to assaults through using tear gas bomb, stun grenades, and pepper spray.

Reporter of Ro’ya TV the journalist Hafeth Abu Sabra was exposed to unjustified and excessive use of power and force using cudgels without any resistance by him as shown in the video, the violation was committed by more than one police member or personnel, although they were aware of his ID as a journalist.

Moreover, Mohammad Shusheh director and cameraman of Ro’ya TV was exposed to hitting by hand and cudgels, besides, Palestine todayTV reporter Jihad Barakat and its crew were also exposed to prevent of coverage and smashing of their camera, also Ahmad Abdelafu Melhem journalist at Wattan agency was hit with cudgels.

Mohammad Abu Shusheh reported to MADA ”while we were covering the peaceful demonstration, one of the security apparatuses with plainclothes tried to confiscate my camera, when I refused he started hitting me with his hand and cudgel mainly on my back, when my colleague Hafeth Abu Sabrah ( reporter of Ro’ya TV) came towards us trying to help me, they started hitting him with their hands and cudgels excessively”.

Jihad Barakat reported to MADA “when security apparatuses arrived to separate the protestors, under the pretext that the demonstrators were closing the street, they started targeting indiscriminately the protestors and journalists with tear gas bombs and pepper spray, noting that a group identified themselves as the general intelligence prevented us from coverage brutally trying to confiscate the camera of Palestine Today crew, when it was smashed”.

The journalist Ahmad Melhem reported to MADA” when Palestinian security apparatuses attacked our colleagues in Ro’ya TV , I tried to immediate through pulling them away, and I succeeded, but I was exposed to hitting with cudgels on the back and right leg led to its swelling and redness”.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms MADA, reaffirms the urgent need to protect journalists and media outlets and their right to cover all events and activities freely without any conditions, pressure, or assaults. MADA strongly condemns what journalists were exposed to this unjustified and excessive use of force that is breaching their rights listed under the Palestinian basic law, that guaranteed freedom of expression opinion and the right to assemble.