Activists urge probe on PA's journalist crackdown

Security forces’ actions incompatible with both letter and spirit of law, says Palestinian Independent Commission of Human Rights.

Palestinian security confronts journalist in Ramallah 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian security confronts journalist in Ramallah 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian journalists and activists on Tuesday called for an independent investigation on the harsh crackdown by the Palestinian Authority’s security forces on demonstrators and journalists in the last two days.
They also called for a number of demonstrations to protest the actions of the security forces, which many views as stifling basic liberties like the freedoms of expression and assembly.
The PA’s security forces beat, injured and detained several people on Saturday as dozens of protesters rallied to demand the calling off of a planned visit by Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz’s (Kadima) to the presidential headquarters in Ramallah.
Activists gathered again on Sunday before facing a similarly severe response from the police.
On Monday evening, the presidential office chairman Hussein al-Araj apologized to the press for the last events of the last two days, and conveyed apologies from PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership.
Speaking from the presidential headquarters, Araj told journalists covering a Palestine Liberation Organization meeting that incidents like those that had occurred recently would not happen again, confirming the Palestinians’ right to peaceful assemblies within the framework of law and order.
Palestinian Interior Minister Said Abu Ali said that he had formed a committee to investigate the incidents. Araj said that legal measures will be taken against those who are responsible for the latest attacks.
Journalists Union chief Abdul Nasser Najjar considered the attack on journalists a clear reneging on the government and police’s previous commitments to ensure the freedom of the press and to facilitate journalists’ duties in covering events.
The union is organizing a sit-in in Ramallah on Tuesday condemning the assault on journalists. Journalists were asked to wear their protective gear to send a message to the Palestinian security forces that journalists are in danger.
One producer, Muhammad Jaradat, said he was beaten by members of the security forces while he was at the demonstration, and was beaten again while he was at police headquarters.
Sources told The Jerusalem Post that the PA president is considering paying a visit to Jaradat tomorrow.
Activists have called for another demonstration on Tuesday evening against negotiations and attacks on peaceful protesters.
The Palestinians for Dignity group said in a statement that the populace is the source of power.
“We call on all Palestinians from Haifa and Jenin to Ramle and Hebron to participate in the demonstration heading to the presidential headquarters... we confirm that the physical pain will fade away, but not the disgrace of hitting [Palestinian protesters].”
Palestinian intellectuals along with groups advocating for human rights and freedom of the media strongly criticized the Ramallah events and called for the formation of an independent commission to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the incidents. Activists said they will file a complaint relating to the attack against them.
The Palestinian Independent Commission of Human Rights (ICHR) considered the crackdown to be incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Palestinian Basic Law.
“The right of assembly is enshrined and guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law, the Law of Public Assembly and international human rights conventions, and demands that the security agencies, especially under the current conditions, address peaceful gatherings wisely; allow people, particularly the youth, to express their opinions peacefully and freely; and investigate attacks on the participants and the concomitant events,” an ICHR press statement said.
Dozens of Palestinian journalists and intellectuals issued a statement strongly condemning what they described a crime and insult to the integrity of the protesters, and called for the dismissal of the city’s director of police headquarters, Colonel Abdul Latif Al-Qaddoumi.
“He can’t possibly stay in charge after what happened,” the statement read.
“Do we sabotage our national agreement for a murderer like this?” it continued.
The statement said the youth in Ramallah objected to the visit of a murderer who scared their children and raided their houses.
Palestinian security forces spokesman Gen. Adnan Dmeiri said that calling for the dismissal of Qaddoumi is nobody’s right.
Speaking to Al-Shark radio, Dmeiri defended the police action as blocking a banned protest near the presidential headquarters.
On Monday morning, Abbas stated that the Palestinian Authority accepts constructive but not harmful criticism.
In a phone speech he gave to Voice of Palestine Radio, he defended the people’s right to the freedom of expression, saying it is guaranteed by the law.
Abbas said that he would not allow anyone to violate the people’s freedoms, specifically the freedom of speech and expression, and that he would not accept anyone violating the law.
In a later statement issued by his office, Abbas demanded that people obey the law, saying that he would not allow anyone to attack the official institutions or humiliate those applying and protecting the law.
In turn, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, condemned the suppression of the protests, adding that this affects the fundamental rights of the Palestinians.
“This harms the image of our people and our state institutions, and, moreover, jeopardizes our democratic future, which preserves and protects human rights and the rule of law,” Ashrawi said in a statement.