The event was opened with remarks from Ghassan Kasabreh (NDC Director), Terry Boullata (National Programme Officer of the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and representing the donor consortium of Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands) and Hamdi Shaqqura (on behalf of partner NGOs). Ghassan Kasabreh explained the importance of such an event: “International Human Rights Day gives us the chance to explore the challenges NGOs face throughout the oPt and an opportunity to recognise the fantastic achievements of human rights and good governance organisations in the most difficult of socio-political conditions. The Human Rights and Good Governance Secretariat is proud to host so many partners and friends on this special day”. Terry Boullata highlighted the significance of NGO interaction throughout the sector and the huge potential of online communication for the human rights and good governance community. Hamdi Shaqqura emphasised the Gaza siege as an example of collective punishment and clear violations of human rights. He also lent support to Shawan Jabbarin, Director of Al Haq: “We send our solidarity to Shawan Jabbarin who has suffered travel restrictions since 2006 by the Israeli authorities – this is a clear violation of his personal human rights”.
The forum focused on two particular areas of concern: ‘Palestinian Prisoners’ Rights - Protection, Promotion & Advocacy’ and ‘Collective Punishment - Protection & Accountability’. Dedicated exhibition space also provided twelve partner NGOs with the opportunity to display a range of publications and communicate their cause to interested guests.
The first panel of the day focused on ‘Palestinian Prisoners’ Rights - Protection, Promotion & Advocacy’. Speakers from B’Tselem, Hurryyat, Defence of Children International – Palestine (DCI – Palestine) and Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) emphasised the dyer state of prisoners’ rights. Daniel Sherman and Iyad Misk, of B’Tselem and DCI - Palestine respectively, noted the extreme vulnerability of young Palestinians in a prison setting. Iyad Misk identified discriminatory military courts as a major example of young prisoner intimidation and Daniel Sherman raised Israel’s continued use of torture despite the state’s ratification of international declarations. Louis Frankenthaler used his presentation to expose a lack of independence at the heart of the Israeli security forces. The system, he said, protects itself. Painting a worrying picture of the status and treatment of Palestinian prisoners, Helmi Araj of Hurryyat said that, “we are calling on the world…the time has come for accountability”.
The second panel – ‘Collective Punishment - Protection & Accountability” – was facilitated by Sama Aweideh of the Women’s Studies Center with Shawan Jabbarin of Al Haq presenting. Samer Mousa of Al Dameer Association for Human Rights stressed the effect the siege of Gaza has on the most vulnerable members of society – specifically children, women and the elderly. Mr Jabbarin emphasised the “great potential for exposing the issue of the protection and promotion of human rights in Palestine” with the use of social media. Taking inspiration from the youth led movement that was the Arab Spring, Shawan Jabbarin called for the collective utilisation of new media in the face of the collective punishment endured by the Palestinian people.
Lively discussions followed each panel and the Secretariat partners identified the participatory and interactive nature of the forum as a particularly positive feature.
The inclusive nature of the forum echoes the Secretariat’s continuing commitment to creating an empowered and collaborative human rights and good governance sector throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.