Yesterday, two foreign journalists were kidnapped in the Gaza Strip. Although both were released a few hours later, the crime reflects the recurrence of kidnapping cases, in the absence of effective measures by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) against kidnappings and other forms of security chaos.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 14:45 on Wednesday, 12 October 2005, 6 gunmen traveling in a civilian car intercepted another car in the al-Mawasi area in Khan Yunis. The second car was transporting 5 passengers, including 2 foreign journalists working for the US Knight Ridder Incorporation: Dion Nissenbaum, an American citizen who works as a correspondent in Jerusalem; and Adam Pletts, a British citizen who works as a photographer. The gunmen forced the passengers to get out of the car, and forced the journalists into their car, leaving the companions (a guide, a driver and a translator) in the area. One of the companions informed the police of the incident after the kidnappers had left.
A PCHR fieldworker reported that Palestinian security forces set up roadblocks and conducted search operations to locate the kidnappers. Later, it was revealed that the kidnappers were members of an armed group called “Black Panther,” which is affiliated with the Fatah movement. The kidnappers went to a house in the Gizan al-Najjar area of Khan Younis. The kidnapping was carried out in order to pressurise the PNA into employing dozens of people affiliated with the armed group in Palestinian institutions, as well as to improve work conditions for some workers and promote others.
The two journalists were released without harm at approximately 21:45, following negotiations between the kidnappers on one side and Fatah activists and Palestinian security officials on the other side. Agreements reached with the kidnappers have not been so far revealed. It is also unknown if the PNA will take legal action against the kidnappers or if it has accepted their demands.
This latest incident comes as part of a pattern of kidnappings that has recently escalated in the Gaza Strip. The PNA has failed to take effective measures to fight such crimes and bring their perpetrators to justice. This latest incident was preceded by similar crimes, the last of which was a failed kidnapping attempt against a French journalist in the northern Gaza Strip on 4 October 2005. In this attempt, 4 gunmen intercepted a car that was transporting the journalist from Erez crossing to Gaza and tried to kidnap him. Palestinian civilians in the area gathered and prevented the kidnapping and the perpetrators fled the area. PCHR learnt that this attempt was carried out by relatives of a detained criminal in order to demand his release.
The wave of kidnapping foreigners threatens the lives of innocent people and undermines the rule of law. In addition, it has disastrous consequences that will lead to the evacuation of internationals, including relief workers, journalists and solidarity activists from the Gaza Strip. In this regard, PCHR particularly refers to the direct outcome of these crimes, which has included a reduction in the activities of a number of international organizations, such as UNRWA and the ICRC. In addition, hundreds of journalists have been deterred from visiting the Gaza Strip as a result of the threat.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights condemns the kidnapping of Dion Nissenbaum and Adam Pletts and all crimes against foreigners. PCHR is concerned about the failure of the PNA, represented by the Attorney-General’s office, to search for the perpetrators of these crimes and bring them to justice. In some cases in the past, the PNA have even succumbed to the individualistic demands of the kidnappers instead of bringing them to justice. Escaping from justice and committing such crimes without punishment is the main reason for their recurrence. They have become a phenomenon that is detrimental to the PNA and the Palestinian people as a whole.
PCHR calls upon the PNA to take effective measures, in accordance with the law and human rights standards, to put an end to this phenomenon and other forms of security chaos. PCHR calls upon all Palestinian national and Islamic factions and civil society groups to condemn, in the strongest terms, kidnapping foreigners; to isolate kidnappers; and to pressure the PNA to search for perpetrators of such crimes and bring them to justice.