Rights group protests arrest of former lawmaker by Gaza police

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the attack, and subsequent humiliations, of former Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member, Rafat al-Najjar (65), his wife, son and brother-in-law by the Palestinian police in Khan Younis. The Centre calls upon the relevant authorities to investigate the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 12:30pm on Friday, 3 October, a row erupted between neighbors of Rafat al-Najjar, in the Jourat al-Lout area of Khan Younis. When the row escalated into an armed confrontation, local residents, including al-Najjar, his family and friends, intervened to quell the row. In the meantime, a large contingent of Palestinian police arrived at the area, and fired into the air. Police officers also beat some individuals. When the officers attempted to enter al-Najjar’s house, saying they were pursuing those engaged in the row, there was an altercation between the police and al-Najjar’s relatives, who were standing in front of the house. The police officers attempted to assault two members of the al-Najjar clan, and Rafat al-Najjar intervened. A police officer pushed and insulted him, and he fell to the ground. Al-Najjar’s 18-year-old son, Othman, intervened and began fighting with the police. When Othman fled into the house, the police pursued him. His mother, 58-year-old Siham Abdul Hamid Zaqqout, attempted to stop the police, and they beat her with batons. The police also assaulted her brother, 57-year-old Jihad. The police then searched the house, but did not find nor arrest anyone inside the house.

Meanwhile, police officers outside the house attacked attorney Mohammed al-Saqqa, a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the husband of Rafat al-Najjar’s sister, who attempted to calm the situation. The police force withdrew from the area after arresting 12 individuals, including a number of members of the al-Najjar clan. Othman al-Najjar was subsequently treated for bruises at the European Hospital in Khan Younis, and was arrested while in the hospital. Police officers beat him with their rifle butts while escorting him to the police station, where he was again violently assaulted by police officers using batons. PCHR staff members who met with him later saw that he bore clear of having just been beaten. Othman al-Najjar was released later the same evening.

Rafat al-Najjar is currently the Head of the Board of the al-Dameer Association for Human Rights in Gaza. As well as being a prominent national figure, he spent more than 24 years in Israeli jails.

In light of the above:

1) PCHR calls for an investigation into the assaults against Rafat al-Najjar, his wife, son and brothers-in-law, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
2) The Centre reiterates the importance of having strict and enforced rules regulating the use of force by police and other law enforcement officers, in order to deal with the public in a manner that that ensures respect for international human rights standards and the safety and security of civilians.
3) PCHR asserts that although Rafat al-Najjar was not targeted in person, the manner in which the police officers dealt with the incident has raised concerns about their conduct towards the whole family.
4) PCHR calls upon law enforcement bodies to review their behavior in such circumstances, as the Centre has recently received similar complaints from civilians in Gaza.

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