Bachelet urges Palestinian authorities to ensure the safety of protesters ahead of planned demonstrations in Ramallah

GENEVA (1 July 2021) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday urged the Government of the State of Palestine to ensure the safety of protesters ahead of further demonstrations planned for Saturday in Ramallah, following the violent suppression of protests last weekend by Palestinian security forces, both uniformed and plain-clothed, and other armed individuals.

“The Government of the State of Palestine is obliged to ensure freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly. Palestinian Security Forces must act to provide safety and security for the exercise of human rights, including peaceful assembly,” Bachelet said. “Any unnecessary or disproportionate use of force must be promptly, transparently and independently investigated.”

Protests were sparked by the death on 24 June of Nizar Banat, a prominent critic of the Government, in a violent operation by the Palestinian Security Forces. The protests in Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem were monitored by the UN Human Rights Office.

Bachelet welcomed assurances given by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh to the UN Human Rights Office’s representative regarding due process in the investigation into Mr. Banat’s death, as well as respect for protesters’ rights to freedom of assembly and expression.

“Last weekend, we witnessed Palestinian Security Forces using force against initially entirely peaceful protesters, including beating them with batons and firing teargas and stun grenades,” the High Commissioner said.

The High Commissioner expressed particular concern at the presence of large numbers of non-uniformed people acting in a seemingly organized and coordinated manner with the Palestinian Security Forces. She said the failure by the uniformed Palestinian Security Forces present to intervene was of serious concern.

“During one of these protests, one of our staff members monitoring it was punched and pepper-sprayed by a person in civilian clothing,” said the High Commissioner.

“Many people, including journalists, and human rights defenders were similarly assaulted. This interference in our work in Palestine is unprecedented. It is crucial that independent investigations are carried out to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

“We have also witnessed and received credible reports of specific targeting of women present in the demonstrations - women protesting, reporting for media or merely bystanders,” Bachelet added, noting that many women reported being sexually harassed at demonstrations, had their mobile phones confiscated or stolen, and reported being summoned by the Palestinian Security Forces. There have been threats, including death threats, and harassment, including of sexual nature, against them on social media.

“We call for an immediate end to any gender-based targeting, harassment, threats or violence and call on the Government to ensure the safety and security of all without discrimination,” she said.