On 23 February 2016, Palestinian security apparatuses set up checkpoints throughout the West Bank in order to prevent striking teachers from gathering and protesting near the Council of Ministers' building in Ramallah. The checkpoints, which were set up at the entrances of cities and towns, were accompanied by the following measures: searching and preventing public transportation, especially buses, from reaching Ramallah by holding drivers' identification cards and licenses; inspecting vehicles and ordering teachers to step out, holding their identification cards and ordering them to return to where they came from. In addition, numerous teachers were served with summonses by the security apparatuses. Several other violations were carried out against teachers in various governorates following the strike.
In light of this, Al-Haq would like to reiterate the warning published on 17 February 2016 concerning the Teachers' Union's actions which resulted in the teachers' strike. The Teachers' Union demanded that the government take full responsibility, act to guarantee teachers' rights and dignity, and provide them with a decent living, in order to ensure the teachers' quick return to their classrooms and the resumption of the educational process.
Al-Haq affirms that the violations against teachers, that have been monitored and documented, are in contravention of rights guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law and international conventions to which Palestine acceded without reservations, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). These rights and freedoms include: the right to union organisations, the right to strike, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of movement, the right to personal freedom against arbitrary arrest, and the right to fair and satisfying work conditions for teachers.
Violating any of the aforementioned rights and freedoms amounts to a constitutional crime and perpetrators must be held accountable. This is prescribed in Article 32 of the Palestinian Basic Law which states, "any violation of any personal freedom, of the sanctity of the private life of human beings, or of any of the rights or liberties that have been guaranteed by law or by this Basic Law, shall be considered a crime. Criminal and civil cases resulting from such violations may not be subject to any statute of limitations. The National Authority shall guarantee a fair remedy to those who suffer from such damage."
Given the teachers' strike and the Teachers' Union's activities, Al-Haq calls on the following:
- Establishing an independent investigative committee to examine the violations against teachers that were carried out following the Teachers' Union's demands to ensure teachers' rights. The committee must publish its findings and recommendations to the public and present them before the judiciary, in order to guarantee that perpetrators are held accountable and ensure a fair remedy for the victims.
- The Government should remedy the approach it has used to handle the strike to ensure the dignity and fair rights of teachers, and allow for the immediate resumption of education, especially in light of the Prime Minister's assertion that the teachers' rights and demands are legitimate.
- The State of Palestine must respect its obligations under the international conventions that it acceded to without reservations, especially the ICCPR and ICESCR, towards teachers and their activities.
- Al-Haq will continue to follow up on the Teachers' Union's activities. Al-Haq will also monitor the Government and security apparatuses approach to teachers' demanding their rights, as well as the executive authority's respect for teachers' dignity, their rights, whether effective remedy is afforded to victims and perpetrators are held accountable. Al-Haq will include its findings in its parallel report on the ICCPR and ICESCR.
- ENDS -