As an organisation dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), we are dismayed by the forced dispersal of peaceful demonstrations in Gaza City on Tuesday, 15 March 2011. On 14 March 2011, Al-Haq sent letters to the authorities in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, calling on them to respect the right to freedom of expression and assembly of individuals and to allow the peaceful demonstrations for Palestinian unity to proceed without interference.
On 15 March 2011, Al-Haq documented a concerted campaign by the authorities in the Gaza Strip to forcibly disperse the peaceful demonstrators. After initially allowing the demonstrations to take place, at 5:00 pm, security services commenced calls for the protesters’ dispersal. At approximately 7:00 pm, when it became apparent that the demonstrators were not going to disperse, hundreds of police and other security service personnel attacked thousands of demonstrators in Al-Katiba square resulting in the injury of many. An Al-Haq field researcher was attacked and injured while documenting the disruption of the demonstration.
Al-Haq’s field researchers have today confirmed that students are still being assaulted by security services and police at universities in Gaza City. The risk that these attacks will result in fatalities raises serious concerns of a further escalation in violence.
Al-Haq condemns the use of any form of violence or intimidation to prevent peaceful demonstrations and calls on the authorities in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to respect the right of the Palestinian people to express their opinion and desire for unity.
The dynamic changes occurring across the Arab world demonstrate that power cannot be maintained through repressive means. Al-Haq supports the demand of the Palestinian people to exercise their human rights free from oppression.