Time: 2pm (+2 GMT)
At approximately 2:30pm on Tuesday, 19 February 2019, agents of the general intelligence apparatus in Gaza showed up at the Birzeit University Center for Development Studies and handed a written summons order to Ghassan Abu Hatab, 49-year-old coordinator of the Center. According to Abu Hatab, the agents took him to their headquarters office in west Gaza City and, upon his arrival, confiscated his mobile phone and kept him standing, his face to the wall, in a room for ten minutes as two agents verbally insulted him. He was then taken to another room where he was interrogated over a three-day survey he had conducted on 10 February 2019.
The survey was aimed at assessing the situation of youth in the different areas of the Gaza Strip. Abu Hatab was ordered to bring the survey results, which the general intelligence agents confiscated along with a laptop that belongs to the Center. He was informed that he had conducted his survey without a written approval from the Ministry of Interior. He had notified the Ministry on 28 January 2019 but had not received a response. Four hours later, Abu Hatab was released.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights expresses its solidarity with Abu Hatab and with the Birzeit University Center for Development Studies, and strongly condemns the general intelligence apparatus’ violation of Palestinian and international law, particularly Articles 19 of the Palestinian Basic Law, of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which mandate that people’s freedom of opinion be protected. Censorship of information, including through limiting and confiscating research data, constitutes multiple violations to the rights to access to information, freedom of research and academic inquiry, and to the independence of non-governmental organizations.
The Attorney General should act upon this situation and launch an investigation into the case of Abu Hatab. Al Mezan also calls on the authorities in Gaza to ensure the rule of law. Palestine’s obligations under international human rights instruments to which it is a contracting party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, must be upheld.
The Ministry of Interior in Gaza must comply in policies and practices with provisions of the law and stop its abuse of power, including through broadening security measures and infringing on citizens’ rights and liberties.