The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) sent letters to the foreign ministries of France and Austria, expressing its deep concern over the bans and crackdowns slapped against demonstrators who have turned up to the streets following the latest surge in violence by the Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank along with the deadly airstrikes launched on the Gaza Strip.
“At a time when dozens of innocent Palestinians have been massacred in Israeli aggressions across the occupied territories and dozens of families risk to be evicted from their homes in the occupied east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, crackdowns on demonstrators who took to the streets to condemn the escalating Israeli crimes are just a source of grave concern,” said the Letter.
The letter referred to an incident last month, when between 2,500 and 3,500 protesters converged on the heavily immigrant Barbès neighbourhood in the north of Paris, amid a security presence involving some 4,200 officers. Police blocked off wide boulevards as well as narrow streets where some of the protesters were forced to retreat. Police broke up gatherings of demonstrators across the district while preventing any march toward the Place de la Bastille as planned.
It also condemned Austrian authorities for preventing planned pro-Palestine demonstrations which were slated to be held in solidarity with the people of Jerusalem and Gaza.
“The ban represents unacceptable attack on the freedom of expression granted by international law”, said PRC. “The protests, which had originally been called to mark the Nakba, in reference to the "catastrophe" that led to Israel's creation in 1948 and which turned hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into refugees, have obviously been quelled following pressure from pro-Israel institutions”.
“Such a repressive policy stands on the wrong side of the history of a country where human rights are contained in the preamble of the Constitution of the French Fifth Republic, founded in 1958, and the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”, stated PRC.
“We all remember that the French government ratified the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the European Convention on Human Rights 1960 and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000). Therefore, France is expected to live up to its commitments to all these international law instruments which have always taken precedence on national and international legislation”, it said.
“Austria signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), and International Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), among other comprehensive human rights agreements. Therefore, Vienna is expected to live up to its commitments to all these international law instruments which have always taken precedence on national and international legislation”, the letter proceeded.
PRC urged the French and Austrian government to reconsider their policies and responses to the escalations rocking the occupied Palestinian territories and to protect people’s right to association, assembly, freedom for conscious and freedom of expressions.
PRC warned that the violence against pro-Palestine demonstrations risks to spiral into violent responses from angry masses who continue to speak up against Israeli apartheid policies, genocides, and flagrant human rights abuses across the occupied Palestinian territories.
PRC said is dismayed by the increasing number of civilian casualties, including the death of ten members of the same family, including children, as a result of an Israeli airstrike that targeted a Gaza building. “It is unacceptable that protests over such crimes be silenced”.
“It is high time the world’s governments, most notably France’s and Austria’s, overtly condemned Israel’s deadly aggressions on the Palestinians and pressurized it to abide by its obligations under international law pending a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict”, added the letters. “Palestinian refugees should also be given utmost priority on the international political agenda pending their return to their homeland and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital”.
Under international law, governments have the obligation to respect, protect and guarantee the rights and freedoms of people through appropriate legislation and measures. States also have the responsibility to respect the freedom of opinion and expression. Not only is it not allowed to intervene in peaceful demonstrations, but it is also should take active steps to protect demonstrators from aggression by counter-demonstrators.