At 4pm on Thursday, 14 March 2019, the security force of the de facto authorities forcibly dispersed protesters in different areas of the Gaza Strip. They attacked and detained protesters while restricting and intimidating journalists, preventing them from covering the forcible dispersal. Documentation by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights shows that the protests were joined by thousands of Palestinians who came out peacefully to demand solutions to the rising cost of living as well as to the various social and economic challenges of life in Gaza.
The protests, called for by activists against the rising cost of living, were organized in four areas: in the middle of Jabalia refugee camp in North Gaza district, in Deir Al Balah and Al Bureij refugee camp in the Middle Area district, and in the middle of Rafah city in southern Gaza. Organized to demand an end to deteriorating living standards in Gaza, these protests involved some incidents of burning of tires and shouts against unaffordable costs of living; however, police and security forces in Gaza cracked down on protesters, using batons to attack and wounding tens of them while taking tens of others into detention. The police and security forces also shot live fire in the air. Participants in the protests continued to be chased and detained by these forces, including those who were wounded and were being hospitalized.
On Sunday 10 March 2019, 13 activists of the ‘Yasqut Al-Ghalaa’ movement were arrested last week as security personnel broke unto their private meeting. Protests have occurred in various places since.
Journalists were denied from covering the protests, with security and police forces arresting some of them and confiscating their filming equipment. Mobile phones of tens of protesters were also confiscated, in an attempt to prevent any coverage of the security and police’s crackdown.
Al Mezan strongly condemns the continuing violations of the rights to peaceful assembly and to freedoms of press and from arbitrary detention. The right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as in Article 26 of the Palestinian Basic Law (PBL) and in Articles 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the Palestinian Law No. 12 of 1998 on Public Assemblies. Under Palestinian law, citizens organizing public or private assemblies are not required to secure prior permission from competent authorities. The right to freedom of expression and free opinion has been protected in Article 19 of PBL. The freedom of journalists and media practitioners has also been guaranteed in Article 27 of PBL.
Al Mezan demands that the detainees be released and summons orders be ceased immediately, and calls on the de facto authorities in Gaza to enforce the law and honor Palestine’s legal obligations under international law, namely to protect citizens’ rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of opinion and expression, as well as freedom from arbitrary arrest.
The de facto authorities are under an obligation to properly investigate the committed violations of protesters and journalists’ rights and to hold to account those responsible for breaching provisions of Palestinian and international law.