At approximately 11am on Sunday 5 December 2010, the Gaza police dispersed a sit-in held by a group of youths in Gaza in solidarity with the Sharek Youth Forum.
The event took place opposite Sharek Youth Forum office in Gaza City.
A police force prevented the protesters from holding signs with solidarity statements with the Forum.
The police confiscated the signs and alleged that the protestors did not obtain permission for the sit-in.
The police also asked the protestors to head to the Public Prosecution office in Gaza to raise their complaint.
Taking the police advice, the protestors went to the Public Prosecution office.
At approximately 11:45am on the same day, the police pursued a number protestors and stopped them opposite the Arafat Police Compound and told them that their number was large, and assembly for such a number was banned.
They also informed them that they had to select two to represent them at the Public Prosecution office.
As the protestors dispersed and two of them headed to the office, the police arrested 18 protestors in different places in Gaza City.
In addition, the police detained a crew of Al Jazeera International.
Al Mezan identified them as follows: · Nicole Johnston, correspondent; · Sami Ziyara, producer; · Maher Abu Qouta, cameraman; and · Rami Mas'uod, assistant.
In their statement to Al Mezan, the Al Jazeera crew members said that they were detained for about an hour and a half at the Police Compound.
During this time the police treated them well.
The police spoke with them about their views towards the sit-in and then the police released them.
At approximately 4pm on the same day, the police released all the protestors who were detained, but kept three of them under detention.
Al Mezan identified the names of those who remained in detention as follows: · Mohammed Salah Ash-Sheikh Yousif; · Mustafa Al Ghoul; and · Sa'ad As-Saftawi.
In their statements to Al Mezan, the released youths said that the police compelled them to sign a declaration committing them not to participate in any of the Sharek activities and not to mix with girls or women whom they have no legal relationship with.
If they fail to do so, the declaration states, they would have pay a fine of NIS 5,000 (approximately USD 1,400).
The Public Prosecutor office in Gaza had closed four offices of Sharek Youth Form throughout the Gaza Strip on Tuesday 30 November 2010.
Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights and Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights strongly condemn the police dispersal of a peaceful protest, the arrest of protestors and the detention of Al Jazeera International’s crew members.
Al Mezan and Al-Dameer view the declarations signed by the detained protestors as lacking any legal merit.
Sharek Youth Forum has been temporarily closed until investigations in relation to lawsuit No 36/2010 at the Department of Societies Security at the Police Investigations Unit are finished.
Sharek is not a prohibited association under Palestinian law.
In the light of the above, Al Mezan and Al-Dameer assert Palestinians’ right to peaceful assembly and free expression, which are guaranteed by the law.
The requirement that the police be informed of any peaceful assembly is just a procedural matter, but has no relation to obtaining permission for such assembly.
Al Mezan and Al-Dameer therefore call on the Gaza Government to immediately release the detainees, suspend summonses for others who were released, to open investigation into the incident, and to bring any police members who violated the law to justice.
Ends Al Mezan Center for Human Rights Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights