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AL Mezan Center Condemns the Israeli Assault on Journalist Al Mghayar

01-07-2008 00:00

The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continues to violate freedom of expression and freedom of the press in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
This includes restricting journalists and media institutions from working freely, as well as killing, miming and torturing journalists.
On Thursday, 26 June 2008, the IOF severely beat and humiliated Mohammed Omar Al Mghayar, a young prize-winning journalist who lives in and reports from the Gaza Strip.
According to the 24-year-old journalist's sworn testimony, officers from the Israeli security services (Shin Bet) assaulted him when he was returning from a trip to Europe.
Al Mghayar began his visit in London, where he was awarded the 2008 Martha Gelhorn Prize for Journalistic Excellence.
He continued his trip to Sweden, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands where he spoke before parliaments.
It is noteworthy that a delegation from the Dutch embassy facilitated his travel from Gaza and accompanied Al Mghayar on his outbound journey from the Gaza Strip to Jordan.
On Thursday, 26 June 2008, at approximately 9:40am, the journalist arrived at the Allenby Bridge that joins Jordan and the OPT, but is controlled by Israel.
The IOF arrested him, forced him to take off his clothes, beat him severely, and insulted him in front of other travelers.
During the two-hour interrogation, he was threatened at gunpoint to his face.
A Dutch delegation was waiting for him at the Bridge; however, while he was under interrogation, the IOF told the delegation that he had not arrived at the crossing yet.
The beating, accompanied by mental and physical exhaustion, caused Al Mghayar to lose consciousness and he was transferred to a hospital in Jericho, West Bank.
After medical treatment, he was moved to the Erez Crossing that connects Israel with the Gaza Strip.
There, the IOF confiscated his camera charger.
During his interrogation, it was clear that the motive behind the brutal treatment revolved around Al Mghayar's tour.
He spoke to European parliaments where he described the suffering of civilians in the Gaza Strip as a result of the closure and blockade that the IOF imposes.
In addition to his duties as a journalist, he tried to convey the reality of what is happening in the OPT.
Al Mghayar told Al Mezan that most of the questions his interrogators asked were about his tour.
Interrogators told him they knew in detail what he said during his time in Europe.
Al Mghayar remains under treatment at the European Hospital in Khan Younis.
He suffers from shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, and bruising on all parts of his body as a result of the beating.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns in the strongest possible terms the assault on Al Mghayar as a violation that aimed at hiding the truth behind the human rights violations committed by the IOF in the OPT.
The interrogation aims at punishing a journalist who tried to reveal such violations.
Al Mezan also considers the repeated targeting of journalists in the line of duty as a gross violation of human rights standards.
It is noteworthy that due to the closing of the Egyptian border with Gaza (Rafah), the Allenby Bridge and Erez Crossing are the only routes a Gazan can take to return to the Strip, but only if the IOF accepts to issue them special security permissions.
Al Mezan Center stresses that the assault and humiliation committed against Al Mghayar constitutes a violation of human rights, particularly Article 19 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
As well, it constitutes a violation of the rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which protects journalists and classifies them as civilians during times of war.
Al Mezan calls upon the international community to act urgently upon their moral and legal obligations under international law to provide effective protection for civilians and journalists in the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan calls on the International Federation of Journalists and international, Arab, and local press associations to show their solidarity and take actions to prevent violations against Palestinian journalists and ensure that perpetrators of such violations are held accountable for their acts.
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