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Al Mezan Condemns Dispersing Teachers' Protest and Banning Media Covering the Event; Calls for a Halt of Restricting the Freedom to Peaceful Assembly


Police dispersed a protest organized by the Islamic Union of Palestinian Teachers - the union's section close to the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine - at around 10:00am on Saturday, 6 September 2008 at al-Jundi al-Majhoul Square in Gaza City.
According to the event organizers, participants protested against the exacerbating conditions of the education sector.
The protest's aim is to send a call to Fateh and Hamas not to involve this sector in their on-going conflict.
It was organized under the slogan 'Spare Us Your Disagreements'.
According to eyewitnesses, the police used force to disperse dozens of teachers and prevented journalists from approaching the event's location.
The police arrested Mr.
Anwar Jaradah, the protest's coordinator, while he was reading a press release issued by the Union.
It also forced the vehicle carrying the loudspeakers he used to leave the area.
The protest's coordinator confirmed that the police arrested eight teachers, including two female teachers.
Muhammad Abdallah Shallah, an education supervisor and official spokesperson of the Union, was supposed to announce the press release.
However, he was replaced with Mr.
Jaradah after he was summoned to al-Mashtal, a Hamas-controlled detention center, on Saturday morning.
According to statements by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior (MoI), the MoI dispersed the assembly because its organizers did not obtain a prior permit from the Ministry to organize it.
The Islamic Jihad denounced the forceful dispersing of the demonstration by the police.
According to testimonies collected by Al Mezan, Mr.
Muhammad al-Harazeen, an Islamic Jihad leader, had received a phone call from the office of the Minister of Interior inquiring about the protest, its time and place.
No objection was expressed in this regard.
The summon notice that Mr.
Shallah received around 1:00am on Saturday indicates that the competent authorities were previously informed about the protest.
The protest's coordinator stated that there was political coordination between the Islamic Jihad and the Mol.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns dispersing the teachers' protest as it was a peaceful assembly that comes as a normal response to the continuous politicizing of the education sector, and other vital sectors.
It also condemns preventing media workers from covering the event.
The Center asserts that the authorities must abide by the law when they take procedures concerning peaceful assembly.
The Public Gatherings Law provides special protections and arrangements that guarantee citizens’ right to organize public assemblies without obtaining a permit in advance.
Under this law, organizers are requested to send a written notice to the governor or chief of police at least 48 hours before the event commences.
In case an event organizer does not receive a written response, it has the right to organize the event in its time.
Moreover, the Center considers dispersing this protest a violation of Article 26(5) of the Amended Basic Law, which asserts Palestinians' right to take part in the political life individually and in groups.
It asserts their right to conduct private meetings without the presence of police members and conduct public meetings, processions and assemblies within the limits of law.
Additionally, Article (12) of the Public Gatherings Law accords citizens the right to freely conduct public meetings, debates and demonstrations, which cannot be hindered or restricted unless in accordance with the regulations stated therein.
Therefore, the Center re-asserts that the organizers should notify the governor or chief of police, and not the Minster of Interior or the MoI, of any planned public events.
It is understood that the purpose of such notice is to guarantee the safety of participants, non-disruption of traffic or occurrence of any other disorders.
Al Mezan Center expresses its solidarity with the teachers.
It calls the Gaza government to halt the restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly and remove all restrictions and obstructions on its practice.
The Center also asserts the need to guarantee the protection of free press work.

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