GENEVA- The Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties (GCRL) strongly condemns the escalation of repression of peaceful assemblies and the restriction of freedoms and political arrests carried out by the Palestinian security services in the West Bank.
According to the council’s follow-up, on Saturday, August 21, 2021, at approximately 5:00 pm, Palestinian security forces closed the Al-Manara square in the center of Ramallah, following calls that were launched a few days ago for a peaceful assembly in the city center to demand accountability for those involved in the killing of political opponent Nizar Banat. At approximately six o’clock before the start of the peaceful gathering, the police deployed in large numbers in the center of Ramallah and closed with iron mounds and vehicles, and prevented the peaceful gathering, and arrested about 23 people, including two women, and transferred them to the Ramallah and Al-Bireh Governorate Police Headquarters. Among the detainees were known: Jihad Abdo, retired Major General Youssef Sharqawi, Ibrahim Abu Hijleh, Hamza Zbeidat, Professor Imad Al-Barghouti, Muin Al-Barghouti, Omar Assaf, Abu Ismat Al-Aboudi, Salem Qatash, Bassam Al-Qawasmi, Ubadah Bassam Al-Qawasmi, Musa Abu Sharar, Youssef Mamdouh Amr, Ghassan Al-Saadi, and Kawthar Al-Abwini. The security forces also severely beat the released prisoner Maher Al-Akhras, and he was transferred to the Palestine Medical Complex for treatment while he is in detention there.
In the aftermath, a number of detainees’ families and journalists went to the Ramallah police station and gathered there, demanding the release of the detainees and denouncing the political arrest. However, the police assaulted them, dispersed them by force, and arrested the activist Duha Muaddi, a resident of Kafr Malik. The repression carried out by the PA security forces was repeated in the following two days, when Palestinian figures attempted to organize demonstrations condemning the political arrest. The security forces attacked more citizens, and arrested new figures, including human rights defenders, writers, and politicians, in their dangerous systematic escalation of repression.
The Geneva Council notes that since the Palestinian President’s illegal canceling of the elections last April, the repression carried out by the Palestinian security services has escalated, including political arrests, restriction of freedoms, torture, and severe violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. These violations culminated in the assassination of political opponent Nizar Banat.
GCRL renews its condemnation of the policy of repression and political arrest, and all the escalating practices of tyranny that constitute grave breaches of Palestine’s obligations under international human rights agreements. It also calls for the immediate release of all detainees for political reasons or for exercising their right to peaceful assembly or freedom of expression, and an investigation into the abuse, torture, and degrading conditions of detention to which they were subjected.
The Council also calls for accountability for those involved in the murder of opposition leader Nizar Banat, and the violations that followed, and stresses that getting out of the current situation of tension requires a return to free elections that will end the state of authoritarianism and domination.