NSDL and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, within the network of civil society institutions to strengthen the rule of law and protection of human rights carried out by the association in collaboration with the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation on 10-29-2008, organized a panel discussion on the right of freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly at NSDL headquarter in Rafah. The symposium, which was moderated by Chairman of NSDL Mr. Ibrahim Muammar, discussed the right of freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly, as documented by the Center during the study, prepared for the assessment of the realization of these rights during the period from November 2006 to July 2008.
Muammar ensured on that the right to freedom of opinion and expression and peaceful assembly is guaranteed under Palestinian law, and under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and all conventions relating to human rights, calling for the government in Gaza and the Palestinian government in Ramallah in the West Bank to respect human rights and the abolition of any restrictions that would impede the exercise of these rights.
At the beginning of the symposium and director of democracy development in the association Mr. Hamdi Shaqqura, who reviewed a study on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly, pointing out that it is divided into three parts. Firstly, the relationship between the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly and democracy. This part deals to the relevant international standards. The second part highlights the reality of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the territory under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority. And the third part sheds light on the reality of the right to peaceful assembly in the same areas.
Shaqqura noted during his speech that the period covered by the report was the worst of its kind that related to committed violations, which is according to the report two factors: state of security chaos and the assault on the rule of law, the status of the political divide between the West Bank and Gaza, and its result in onslaught of the two governments in Gaza and Ramallah on public freedoms, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly.
From their side, the participants ensured on the political crisis that is behind many of the human rights violations, including violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly, and the problem is a political issue and the dialogue is the basic approach to solve it. They also criticizing the role played and still play the party media that participated and contributed in fueling the conflict during the period of internal fighting and the events. Therefore, the participants urged that the civil society organizations should play a more active role at the level of buildup and pressure to achieve national reconciliation and consensus in order to reduce violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly committed in Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
At the conclusion of the symposium, the participants went through the recommendations:
1. Invite both Hamas and Fateh to start a dialogue and put an end to the situated division.
2. Not to involve journalists and media in the roar of the political conflict.
3. Invite the public to play a more active role in collaboration and cooperation with civil society organizations seeking to achieve consensus and national reconciliation.