The internal security apparatus in Gaza is prohibiting a national conference to end Palestinian internal split from being held in Gaza. The conference was scheduled to be held at 10:30 am on Saturday, 15 October 2016, at the Palestinian Association of Development and Heritage Protection. The organizers of the conference were shocked when a force from the internal security apparatus broke into the Association and informed its administration and the conference organizers that the event would be cancelled and banned.
According to Yusri Darwish, the General Coordinator of the Assembly to End the Palestinian Split, at approximately 8:30 am on Saturday, 15 October 2016, internal security officers entered the Association in Beit Lahiya town, North Gaza, and informed the administration of the Association and the conference organizers that the conference was thereby shut down and would be banned from being held. The officers claimed that the organizers didn’t have a permit to hold the conference. The organizers were forced to postpone it. The conference was being organized in order to elect the leadership body of the Assembly.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) condemns the interruption and ban and views these actions as a serious violation of the rights to freedom of expression and association; both of which are protected by Palestinian law as well as human rights standards. According to Palestinian law, holding meetings in closed, private locations does not require prior consent or permits from the Ministry of Interior.
Prohibiting public meetings under such circumstances violates Clause 5 of Article 26 of the Amended Palestinian Basic Law which upholds the rights of Palestinians to participate in political activities as individuals or groups, hold private meetings without police presence and hold public meetings without breaking the law. Article 2 of the Public Meetings Law number 12 of 1998 states: “[w]ithout prejudice to the articles of this law, citizens have the right to convene public meetings, seminars, and peaceful demonstrations and marches freely, and these rights are not subject to any restrictions”.
In the light of the above, Al Mezan calls on the concerned authorities to open an investigation into this incident and to bring those who violated the law to account, notably law enforcement officers.