The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is shocked and strongly denounces the declaration issued by the Ministry of Interior and National Security in Gaza regarding the travel of representatives of programs and projects of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and institutions to the West Bank or abroad. PCHR believes that this trend, as a part of a series of decisions recently taken by the government in Gaza, is an unprecedented and unacceptable intervention in NGOs work, which implies imposing restrictions on NGOs and activists and dealing with them on security basis. As a result, the foundations of the relationship between NGOs and the government, which is regulated by the Basic Law and all other laws in force, are threatened to be undermined. PCHR calls upon Isma'il Haniya, the Prime Minister in Gaza, to immediately and personally intervene to ensure respect for the law, the relationship with NGOs and their role, and to ensure their independence.
On 10 August 2011, the General Department of Public Affairs and NGOs in the Ministry of Interior and National Security in Gaza posted a declaration on its website regarding the travel of participants through NGOs' programs and activities:
"The General Department of Public Affairs and NGOs in the Ministry of Interior and National Security announces that each person of those wishing to travel through NGOs' programs or projects to the West Bank or abroad has to refer to the General Department of Public Affairs and NGOs not less than two weeks from the date of travel. He/she also has to inform us of the following: - The destination - The period of travel - The purpose of travel, in addition to identifying the program - The target group (a list of names and data of all participants) - The hosting body
This declaration was published after days of posting a news item on website of the Council of Ministers in Gaza – Secretariat General – on 02 August 2011. It stated that the government "decided not to allow any NGO or non-profit organization to implement any project that is funded by a donor without the approval of the Ministry of Interior, National Security and concerned bodies." This news was negated by the government in communications made with the Secretariat General of the Council of Ministers and with the government's spokesperson. However, it was not officially cancelled.
Additionally, on 31 May 2011, the Council of Ministers in Gaza issued a decision to make amendments to the executive bill of Charitable Associations and Community Organizations Law No. 1/2000, which has not been officially published in the official gazette yet (al-Waqa'e Newspaper in Gaza). The amendments included adding article (47 bis) which stipulates that: "1. All the branches of local organizations shall provide to the Ministry and the Competent Ministry any documents or papers upon request; and 2. The Ministry and the Competent Ministry shall implement activities implemented by branches of local organizations to make sure that the funds of the said branches are spent for the designated purpose." PCHR had reservations over this amendment, which substantially destroys the essence of this relationship and grants more power to the Ministry of Interior to intervene into the affairs of organizations. Further, this amendment constitutes an encroachment of the law.
PCHR strongly denounces this declaration and warns against its risks, as it violates the law and is part of the restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people due to the illegal siege; and:
- Calls upon Mr. Isma'il Haniya, the Prime Minister in Gaza, to immediately and personally intervene to ensure respect for the law, the relationship with NGOs and their role, and to ensure their independence.;
- Calls upon the Ministry of Interior and National Security in Gaza to withdraw this trend and annul the decision immediately;
- Stresses that the freedom of movement is ensured for all persons under the law and the constitution;
- Rejects that the Ministry of Interior and National Security deals with NGOs' activists on security basis. PCHR expresses its concerns that this trend is part of a policy that will eventually lead to undermining the foundations of an independent and active society;
- Believes that this trend raises a question concerning what civil society the government wants, and whether there is an appropriate environment for an independent civil society or the trend is part of persistent efforts for control and containment, which violate the spirit and text of the law.