Photographic evidence and witness testimony gathered by Amnesty International at the scene suggest that Palestinian security forces used excessive force to violently suppress a peaceful protest outside of the Ramallah District Court in the West Bank on 12 March 2017. Ten minutes after the protest against the prosecution of six Palestinian men, including slain activist Basil al-Araj, began outside the courthouse in al-Bireh area, Amnesty International researchers witnessed heavily armed security forces arriving, carrying batons and shields . They immediately began to charge towards the protesters, violently striking them with the wooden batons, using pepper spray and firing tear gas into the crowd . At least 21 people (13 men and eight women) were injured, including four journalists covering the event . Seventeen were hospitalized.
There can be no justification for violently storming a peaceful protest . Video evidence obtained by Amnesty International shows Palestinian security forces resorting to brutal and alarming means to crush the protest in flagrant violation of their obligations to uphold and protect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
There can be no justification for violently storming a peaceful protest
Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International Palestinian security forces firing tear gas into the crowd to disperse the protesters outside courthouse in Ramallah Amnesty International
Following a public outcry, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah today announced the formation of a committee to investigate the actions of the police at the courthouse.
The Palestinian authorities must ensure that the investigation announced into this incident is independent, impartial and thorough and that all those found to be responsible are held accountable for their actions, said Magdalena Mughrabi. International human rights standards require that police and security forces avoid using force to disperse a peaceful assembly. Amnesty International staff present at the scene observed no violence from protesters prior to police attacking them with batons, tear gas and pepper spray . Those injured suffered bruises from heavy beatings with wooden batons or after being struck by tear gas canisters .
Four journalists from Wattan TV, Roya TV1, and Palestine Today were also beaten in what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to prevent them from covering the protest . No injuries were reported among members of the security forces. Khader Adnan, a protester who was hospitalized for his injuries, told Amnesty International: I was standing peacefully when tens of baton-wielding soldiers attacked me and beat me to the ground . Once I fell down one of them stepped on my head while others continued to beat me, ripping my clothes . I have injuries on my back, my shoulders, and my leg.
I was standing peacefully when tens of baton-wielding soldiers attacked me and beat me to the ground
Khader Adnan, Palestinian protester
He was taken to the Criminal Investigations Department with six others where he says he was verbally abused before five of them were released . The other two remained in detention. Farid al-Atrash, a lawyer, human rights defender and the head of the Bethlehem office of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, who was present at the protest said he was beaten to the ground with wooden batons . He told Amnesty International he also witnessed police officers beating the father of Basil Al Araj, a Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli soldiers last week . I tried to protect him when I was attacked by the officers; they hit me to the ground and beat me on my legs, he said.
Father of Basil Al Araj, a Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli soldiers last week, was among those beaten by Palestinian security forces during the protest Amnesty International
Bassem Tamimi, a well-known Palestinian activist from Nabi Saleh and former prisoner of conscience was also injured in the demonstration . I can t believe they did this to us . I was speaking to the head of the police unit there telling him we will disperse in 15 minutes . We were almost done when I saw a large crowd of police begin to swarm us and attack in a vicious manner . They used wooden clubs and started to hit people left and right, I walked back when they shot a tear-gas canister directly into my lower back, hitting my tailbone . I didn t expect them to behave like this. Bassem Tamimi s wife, Nariman, also an activist from Nabi Saleh, was beaten after she intervened to tell security forces to stop beating and dragging a young man .
What did we do ? We did nothing wrong ! My shoulder and arm are now injured . I didn t believe they would do something like this, she said. One eyewitness, Hafez Omar, said the protesters were standing peacefully when the police told them to leave the area . When they refused, the police started pushing them and beating them with batons . He witnessed two other men being beaten before the police dragged him and beat him with batons on his arms, back and legs.
One of the protesters who was beaten with a baton on his shoulder and back waits at Ramallah public hospital for treatment Amnesty International
Between 100 and 150 people had gathered outside the courthouse in al-Bireh to protest against the prosecution of six Palestinian men accused of possessing firearms . Four of the men Haitham Siyaj, Muhammad Harb, Muhammad al-Salameen and Saif Idrisi are currently held without charge or trial in administrative detention by Israeli authorities . The fifth man, Basil al-Araj, was killed by the Israeli military last week . The sixth man, Ali Dar al-Shaikh was not arrested by Israel and was present at the court yesterday. In a media interview on Monday, a spokesperson for the Palestinian authorities security forces, Adnan al-Dmeir, accused the protesters of being mercenaries and foreign agents who he said were seeking to spread chaos .
In the rare cases where Palestinian authorities have taken steps to ensure accountability in the past, they have resorted to disciplinary measures2 rather than criminal prosecutions to hold police or security forces to account even in cases where the use of force was abusive or arbitrary.
The Palestinian authorities must ensure that the security forces use of force is not excessive, abusive, arbitrary or otherwise unlawful . Anyone suspected of responsibility for arbitrary or abusive use of force must be prosecuted in a fair trial, said Magdalena Mughrabi. Anyone suspected of responsibility for arbitrary or abusive use of force must be prosecuted in a fair trial
Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International
Given the Palestinian authorities poor record of bringing security forces to justice after violent crackdowns on protests, it is even more crucial for the authorities to send a clear message that use of excessive force will not be tolerated and that violations will not go unpunished.
Palestinian security forces police have used unnecessary or excessive force against peaceful demonstrators, including men and women, repeatedly in recent years. In a recent incident documented by Amnesty International, human rights lawyer, Mohannad Karajah, described how 10 members of the Palestinian security forces in plainclothes punched and kicked him and beat him all over his body with sticks at a demonstration on 4 October 2016 . At least five others were also assaulted .
No one has been prosecuted over the incident. In February 2016, mass strikes and protests over low wages for teachers were met with a heavy-handed response from Palestinian security forces who arrested 22 teachers and set up roadblocks around Ramallah to prevent teachers joining demonstrations. Palestinian security forces also used excessive force to disperse protests in previous years3.
President Petro Poroshenko confronted a fresh crisis Monday as a deadly standoff between interior ministry units and armed Ukrainian ultranationalists entered a third day in a western enclave near Hungary.
The EU-backed leader convened his “military cabinet” of top generals to try and diffuse tensions between two forces vital to his bid to stamp out a separatist insurgency 1,000 kilometres (more than 600 miles) away in eastern Ukraine.
The Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) nationalists played a small but instrumental role in three months of pro-European protests that eventually toppled the Kremlin-backed leadership in February 2014.
They then formed the heart of some of the best-equipped — and allegedly most ruthless — units to wage war against pro-Russian militias that overran parts of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland in the wake of the Kiev revolution.
Interior ministry battalions are also at the forefront of the 15-month battle against separatist fighters that has claimed more than 6,500 lives.
But mistrust between volunteer units and Ukraine’s armed forces has been building as Poroshenko tries to follow through on a February peace deal whose terms — including partial self-rule for the insurgents — are anathema to the nationalists.
Pravy Sektor members also cast themselves as Robin Hood figures who defend the public against corruption that has ravaged Ukraine’s political establishment and police since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.
The weekend battles were sparked by Pravy Sektor’s self-proclaimed bid to prevent Hungary and Slovakia from being flooded with any more contraband cigarettes that have already enriched local politicians and their security overlords.
Pravy Sektor reported the death of two of its members in a shootout with what appeared to be a mixture of security personnel and armed local thugs.
The interior ministry — backed up with armoured personnel carriers and military trucks — said one civilian had also died in circumstances that were unclear.
The battle broke out after a dozen or so Pravy Sektor members came to what was meant to be a round of negotiations equipped with grenade launchers and machine guns.
Both sides accuse the other of being the first to open fire .
The Pravy Sektor groups claims to have slipped through a security cordon and established new positions in the surrounding woods.
– ‘Order through force’ –
Pravy Sektor leader Dmytro Yarosh — a bombastic parliament member who was wounded in eastern Ukrainian clashes and whom Moscow identifies as a neo-Nazi — pleaded for calm.
The gun battle erupted in a rural region split from the rest of Ukraine by the Carpathian Mountains and has ancient cultural ties to Hungary.
The Zakarpattia (Trans-Carpathian) province has often wound up siding with pro-Russian political parties because many locals also mistrust the Ukrainian nationalists.
About half of the region’s residents also carry Hungarian passports and have few political links to either Moscow or Kiev.
The Ukrainian government’s near silence on the crisis was broken Monday when Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk came out firmly on Pravy Sektor’s side.
Yatsenyuk has issued orders “to dismiss all Zakarpattia customs service employees,” his office said in a statement.
Th politically more cautious Poroshenko appeared to prefer the middle ground by blaming both sides.
The president opened Monday’s security meeting by accusing “the Zakarpattia smugglers of throwing down a challenge to all of Ukraine.”
But he also blamed Pravy Sektor — whom he called “true patriots” — of allowing “banal criminal gangs” enter its ranks.
A senior Ukrainian security service source said most in the government believed Pravy Sektor was far less innocent than it claimed.
Pravy Sektor “itself is trying to win a piece of the contraband business,” the security source said.
“The problem for Ukraine is that there are a lot of armed people who view themselves as heroes and try to establish their brand of order through force,” said the source.
“Something like this was bound to happen — and it did.”
The White House has released a new report entitled The National Security Implications of a Changing Climate1, essentially a summary of the administration s view that climate change is a primary threat to the nation s security.
President Obama made the issue a central feature of his commencement speech2 at the U.S . Coast Guard Academy . Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, he stated .
And make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country . And so we need to act and we need to act now.
The president went on to tell the graduating cadets that failure to address the threat of climate change and its implications would constitute negligence and would be a dereliction of duty, and that denying it, or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security and would undermine the readiness of our forces.
Essentially, the president has made the case that climate change is not only indisputable but such a grave threat to the security of the United States and the world that the U.S . must take immediate action to counter it, mitigate its effects and be prepared to respond to their implications.
This would include increased conflict and humanitarian crises, destruction of critical national infrastructure, and disruption of the global economy all of which will place increased demands on the military forces of the U.S .
to support civil authorities, intervene to resolve foreign conflicts and respond to more and larger humanitarian disasters brought about by a more turbulent and destructive global environmental condition.
If so, then we should be planning for the dramatic expansion of the military services to include doubling or perhaps tripling the number of people and assets most useful to respond to these types of crises . The military will need more helicopters, cargo aircraft, amphibious ships and all sorts of critical skills to include engineers, communicators, transportation specialists, medical, and supply personnel (and their associated units).
And our conventional combat/security forces should rightly expand if increased conflict is expected too . Of course, a U.S .
military two to three times its current size would require a proportional increase in its annual base budget, perhaps upwards to a level of $1.5 trillion dollars.
It takes time to grow and equip such a force able to operate globally in multiple places, responding to not only the flooded coastal zones of the U.S . and the general environmentally-caused mayhem inland (more numerous and several tornadoes, catastrophic storms and civil disorder caused by drought-parched farmlands in the midwest, etc.) but also to more conflicts in other countries brought about by competitions over water, farmland and the mass migration of millions of people driven from their submerged cities currently located on the world s coastal plains.
Yes, if the prognostications of global warming theorists are to be taken as accurate, then the only responsible thing to do is start making the necessary investments.
But of course all of this is nonsense as is characterizing climate change as an urgent and growing threat to our national security.
It is misguided and even harmful in the confusion it creates and the opportunity cost it imposes on national security, muddles thinking about what national security really is, and establishes a flawed context for allocating resources.
Unaddressed in such policy pronouncements is any reality-based discussion of what can actually be accomplished relative to the magnitude of the problem (presuming there is one), the time needed to achieve desired results, the level of effort required (in scope and scale) and ultimately the monetary cost to do what advocates think must be done.
If the implication of climate change truly is one of the most important national security threats facing the country on par with nuclear-armed competitors, terrorism, and the conventional military challenge posed by major states then one should expect a correspondingly dramatic shift in prioritization of planning for such within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
Perhaps the real issue is not understanding what national security actually is . To solve that problem, one need look no further than Dr .
Kim Holmes 4 essay on the topic found in The Heritage Foundation s 2015 Index of U.S . Military Strength5 . In What is National Security?6 , Holmes explains not only what it is but also what it is not.
Holmes states that national security should be guided not only by a sensible understanding of what is truly vital to a nation s security, but also by what the nation can practically expect the government to do and not to do .
Further, An all of the above definition that would include environmental security which primarily suits political constituencies, will only lead to confusion, waste, distractions, and possibly even military failures as the U.S . government is asked to do things that are either beyond its capacity or, worse, tangential to the real mission of protecting the country from harm.
It is clear that policymakers need a sharper focus as to what is and is not national security . It cannot be all things to all people; if it were, it would be meaningless .
The definition of national security must be limited This is especially true because of budget restraints . While it is proper to task the U.S . government with protecting a spectrum of national security interests from the financial and economic system to access to natural resources the lion s share of the government s interest and thus budgetary resources should be dedicated to safeguarding the country and its interests from foreign aggression.
The White House designation of climate change as a national security threat violates every common sense principle related to national security .
It confuses the entire notion of national security and wastefully misdirects limited national security and defense resources to solve purported problems that are far beyond the capacity or even the responsibility of the federal government.
It would be far more useful to the United States and the American public for the White House to focus its attentions and the nation s resources on actual security threats, of which there are plenty . Just read the news.
- ^ The National Security Implications of a Changing Climate (www.whitehouse.gov)
- ^ commencement speech (www.whitehouse.gov)
- ^ a questionable leap (dailysignal.com)
- ^ Dr . Kim Holmes (www.heritage.org)
- ^ 2015 Index of U.S .
- ^ What is National Security? (index.heritage.org)