Reporters Without Borders expresses satisfaction with the recommendations and conclusions of the independent inquiry commission set up by the Palestinian president into police violence against demonstrators and journalists during protests in Ramallah on 30 June and 1 July.
On 17 July, two weeks after the inquiry commission, chaired by Munib Al-Masri, was created to look into the violence carried out during a visit by the Israeli deputy prime minister to Ramallah, Reporters Without Borders wrote to Saeed Abu Ali, the Palestinian Authority’s interior minister, requesting him to convey the commission’s preliminary conclusions (see below).
The report condemned the “unjustified” use of force and blamed the leadership of the security services, accusing them of a lack of professionalism. On the two days in question, police officers used disproportionate violence, despite facing no resistance.
Furthermore, the security forces failed to observe the rights of those who were taken into custody. Journalists and photographers were deliberately targeted, assaulted and at times arrested by police while they were doing their job.
It recommended that the Palestinian Authority summon senior officers before a competent judicial authority and take appropriate action if mistakes were made and abuses committed. If it emerges that the police officers who carried out the violence received no orders to do so, they should also be answerable for their behaviour before the courts.
The commission urged the Palestinian president to ban the involvement of police officers in plain clothes in peaceful demonstrations. Officers should be in uniform in order not to provoke over-reaction by the demonstrators.
Reporters Without Borders takes note of the report’s recommendations and will check that those responsible for assaults on journalists are brought before the appropriate judicial authorities. The press freedom organization points out that such abuses contravene freedom of information and the Palestinian people’s most basic rights of self-expression.
Following is the text of the letter sent to the interior minister, Saeed Abu Ali, on 17 July.
Interior Minister Saeed Abu Ali
17 July 2012
Dear Interior Minister,
Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends freedom of information, would like to obtain information about the progress of the investigation that was ordered in response to the physical attacks on journalists by security officials on 30 June and 1 July.
Several reporters and photographers were attacked by security officials when they went to cover protests in Ramallah on 30 June against a proposed visit by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz. The attacks were repeated the next day and the toll from the two days of violence was heavy.
Freelance journalist Mohamed Jaradat received a severe beating from four plainclothes policemen at around 6 p.m. on 30 June while covering a protest against the Mofaz visit. They confiscated his equipment and took him to a police station where be continued to be beaten. The assault continued although he kept repeating that he was a journalist and showed his press card to the policemen. He had to be treated in hospital for an injury to his left eye and multiple bruising. (photo MADA 2/07)
On 1 July, Reuters photographer Saed Al-Hawari was assaulted by plainclothes policemen, who tried to confiscate his camera. Freelance photographer Ahmed Musleh was attacked and briefly detained. Quds Media photogapher Ahmed Odeh’s equipment was seized. Al-Hayat Al-Jadeda photographer Issam Rimawi and reporter Mahmoud Harebat were also targeted.
After dozens of journalists demonstrated on 2 July in protest against this violence, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked you to set up an independent commission of enquiry with the task of identifying those responsible for these violations of freedom of information. Reporters Without Borders has taken note of this commitment.
Two weeks have gone by since this commission of enquiry was created and Reporters Without Borders would like to know its initial findings. Our organization will continue to pay close attention to this matter until those responsible for the violence are punished.
I thank you in advance for the attention you give to our request.