PCHR strongly condemns the excessive use of force by Palestinian security forces to disperse peaceful demonstrations and assemblies in several West Bank governorates yesterday. The security forces used gunfire in dispersing these gatherings, resulting in the death of one person and the injury of 25 others. The Centre calls upon the Palestinian government in Ramallah to seriously investigate the circumstances of the death of Hisham Baratha’a in Hebron and other attacks, including attacks on several journalists as they were covering the events. The Centre calls upon the government in Ramallah to prosecute the perpetrators and to take effective steps to prevent the recurrence of such attacks.
The Center’s preliminary investigation and eyewitness account indicate that yesterday 27 November 2007, hundreds of participants took part in peaceful demonstrations and rallies in Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Nablus that were organized by several political parties and civil society organizations to protest the Annapolis conference in the US.
Since the early morning hours of the day, hundreds of security personnel armed with guns and batons were deployed in main streets and areas designated for these assemblies. As soon as people started gathering in these areas, fist fights broke out between the security forces and demonstrators. The security forces attempted to disperse the demonstrators with batons and beatings. In addition, they fired indiscriminately to disperse the demonstrators, who threw rocks at the security personnel. The events led to the death of Hisham Na’im Yusef Baratha’a (37) from Hebron. He was killed by a bullet to the chest. In addition, more than 30 people were injured by various injuries in the areas where the demonstrations were held.
In the meantime, several journalists were beaten, detained, or prevented from covering the events by security forces. Among these journalists were Wa’el Hijazi al-Sheyoukhi (Al Jazeera), who suffered a broken left hand; Mo’ammar Orabi (Watan local TV), suffered a broken right leg; Ghassan Bannoura (Bethlehem local TV), suffered bruises all over the body; and Bassam Ja’far Dweikat (Yafa Media Center).
It is noted that security forces conducted an arrest campaign in the evening of Monday, 26 November 2007, and throughout Tuesday (27 November) against the organizers of these peaceful demonstrations. Most of the detainees were released but some remain in custody.
In a related incident on Wednesday, 28 November 2007, security forces attacked the funeral procession of Hisham Baratha’a, and dispersed it by force. The security forces fired in the air and beat the procession participants with batons. Ten people were injured. In addition, some procession participants were detained.
In light of these incidents, PCHR:
- Strongly condemns the prevention of peaceful demonstrations in the West Bank, and the use of force in dispersing demonstrators, including the use of batons and other forms of violence and inhumane treatment.
- Affirms the people’s full rights to hold peaceful assemblies and demonstrations as a form of expression and protest that is protected by the Basic Law and international human rights mechanisms, conditional to the peaceful nature of these activities.
- Strongly condemns the attack on journalists, beating them, detaining them, and preventing them from conducting their work freely. The Centre reiterates the call for respecting journalistic freedoms.
- Calls upon the Palestinian government in Ramallah to immediately investigate these attacks, especially the killing of Baratha’a and injury of 30 others, and to prosecute the perpetrators.