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China (Includes Hong Kong, Macau, and Tibet)

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The government restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

While the constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, the government severely restricted this right. The law stipulates such activities may not challenge “party leadership” or infringe upon the “interests of the state.” Protests against the political system or national leaders were prohibited. Authorities denied permits and quickly suppressed demonstrations involving expression of dissenting political views. For example police in Huizhou continued to hold human rights activist Xiao Yuhui, detained in July 2020 after repeating a WeChat post calling for individuals to save Hong Kong.

Citizens throughout the country continued to gather publicly to protest evictions, forced relocations, and inadequate compensation, often resulting in conflict with authorities or formal charges. Media reported thousands of protests took place during the year across the country. Although peaceful protests are legal, public security officials rarely granted permits to demonstrate. Despite restrictions, many demonstrations occurred, but authorities quickly broke up those motivated by broad political or social grievances, sometimes with excessive force.

In August, Ding Jiaxi and Xu Zhiyong were indicted on charges of subversion after two rounds of investigation by the Linyi Municipal Public Security Bureau and 21 months in detention. Ding and Xu were arrested in December 2019 after they met earlier that month in Xiamen, Fujian, to organize civil society and plan nonviolent social movements in the country. They were charged with “incitement to subvert state power” and “subversion of state power;” the latter crime carries a minimum 10-year prison sentence. Authorities continued to deny the families and their lawyers access to Xu and Ding.

Concerts, sports events, exercise classes, and other meetings of more than 200 persons require approval from public security authorities. Mass-gathering events were canceled during the year due to COVID-19 controls.

Freedom of Association

The constitution provides for freedom of association, but the government restricted this right. CCP policy and government regulations require that all professional, social, and economic organizations officially register with and receive approval from the government. These regulations prevented the formation of autonomous political, human rights, religious, spiritual, labor, and other organizations that the government believed might challenge its authority in any area. The government maintained tight controls over civil society organizations and, in some cases, detained or harassed NGO workers. Propaganda targeted NGOs, smearing them for any affiliation with foreign governments.

The regulatory system for NGOs was highly restrictive, but specific requirements varied depending on whether an organization was foreign or domestic. Domestic NGOs were governed by charity law and a host of related regulations. Domestic NGOs could register in one of three categories: as a social group, a social organization, or a foundation. All domestic NGOs are required to register under the Ministry of Civil Affairs and find an officially sanctioned sponsor to serve as their “professional supervisory unit.” Finding a sponsor was often challenging, since the sponsor could be held civilly or criminally responsible for the NGO’s activities and sponsorship included burdensome reporting requirements. All organizations are required to report their sources of funding, including foreign funding.

All domestic NGOs are supposed to have a CCP cell, although implementation was not consistent. According to authorities, these CCP cells were to “strengthen guidance” of NGOs in areas such as “decision making for important projects, important professional activities, major expenditures and funds, acceptance of large donations, and activities involving foreigners.” Authorities are to conduct annual “spot checks” to ensure compliance on “ideological political work, party building, financial and personnel management, study sessions, foreign exchange, acceptance of foreign donations and assistance, and conducting activities according to their charter.”

The law requires foreign NGOs to register with the Ministry of Public Security and to find a state-sanctioned sponsor for their operations or for one-time activities. NGOs that fail to comply face possible civil or criminal penalties. The law provides no appeal process for NGOs denied registration, and it stipulates NGOs found to have violated certain provisions could be banned from operating in the country. The law also states domestic groups cooperating with unregistered foreign NGOs will be punished and possibly banned.

Some international NGOs reported it was more difficult to work with local partners, including universities, government agencies, and other domestic NGOs, as the NGO law codified the CCP’s perception that foreign NGOs were a “national security” threat. Many government agencies still had no unit responsible for sponsoring foreign NGOs. The vague definition of an NGO, as well as of what activities constituted “political” and therefore illegal activities, left many business organizations and alumni associations uncertain whether they fell within the purview of the law. The lack of clear communication from the government, coupled with harassment by security authorities, caused some foreign NGOs to suspend or cease operations in the country. According to the Ministry of Public Security, as of November 2, approximately 622 foreign NGO representative offices had registered under the Foreign NGO Management Law, with more than one-half of those focusing on industry or trade promotion activities.

According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, by the end of the year, there were more than 900,000 registered social organizations, public institutions, and foundations. Many experts believed the actual number of domestic NGOs to be much higher. NGOs existed under a variety of formal and informal guises, including national mass organizations created and funded by the CCP that are organizationally prohibited from exercising any independence, known as government-operated NGOs, or GONGOs.

For donations to a domestic organization, foreign NGOs must maintain a representative office in the country to receive funds, or to use the bank account of a domestic NGO when conducting temporary activities. By law foreign NGOs are prohibited from using any other method to send and receive funds, and such funding must be reported to the Ministry of Public Security. Foreign NGOs are prohibited from fundraising and “for-profit activities” under the law.

Although all registered organizations came under some degree of government control, some NGOs, primarily service-oriented GONGOs, were able to operate with less day-to-day scrutiny. Authorities supported the growth of some NGOs that focused on social problems, such as poverty alleviation and disaster relief. Law and regulations explicitly prohibit organizations from conducting political or religious activities, and organizations that did not comply faced criminal penalties.

Authorities continued to restrict, evict, and investigate local NGOs that received foreign funding and international NGOs that provided assistance to Tibetan communities in the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Almost all were forced to curtail their activities altogether due to travel restrictions, official intimidation of staff members, and the failure of local partners to renew project agreements.

Ethiopia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Permission to hold peaceful rallies is required. Holding unrecognized rallies may result in legal liability.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Database (ACLED) reported that the country had an average of more than three weekly demonstrations. While the majority were peaceful, ACLED assessed security forces responded to five demonstrations with excessive force and 17 with some nonexcessive intervention.

On May 21, security forces reportedly killed at least four persons and injured approximately 20 others during a Prosperity Party rally in Merawi town in Amhara Region. Regional police stated the security forces intervened to control the situation because some youths at the rally attempted to disrupt the event. The opposition political party National Movement of Amhara released a statement describing the casualties and injuries as “a result of measures taken by the security forces against students who raised their voices peacefully.”

Hong Kong

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but SAR authorities did not respect those rights, especially for individuals and organizations associated with the prodemocracy movement. The government repeatedly claimed COVID-19 pandemic health concerns as reasons for restricting public gatherings, although it made exceptions for events involving government officials and pro-Beijing groups.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

While the law provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, the government effectively banned peaceful assembly for political purposes to prevent COVID-19. Because of the strict public health limits on any public gathering, police did not issue any “letters of no objection” for public demonstrations from groups not aligned with the PRC and SAR governments after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, police refused permits for a May 1 Labor Day rally, the annual 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre vigil, and the annual July 1 prodemocracy rally marking the anniversary of the SAR’s handover to China.

Freedom of Association

SAR law provides for freedom of association, but the government did not respect the law. SAR authorities investigated and forced the closure of any group they deemed a “national security” concern. Pro-Beijing media also accused several unions, including the SAR’s largest trade and teacher unions (see section 7, Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining) of “foreign collusion” – punishable by up to life in prison under the NSL – due to their affiliation with international organizations.

The Civil Human Rights Front, an umbrella group that organized large-scale annual prodemocracy protests, announced its dissolution just days after the police commissioner publicly accused the group of possible violations of the NSL and of operating since 2002 without proper registration. He made this accusation despite previous police approvals of the group’s requests for protest permits in prior years.

The 612 Humanitarian Fund, which used crowdfunding to support emergency financial and legal assistance for persons injured or arrested during the 2019 protests against the extradition bill, was also forced to shutter its operations after the government publicly made criminal allegations against the group.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, a prodemocracy group organizing annual vigils to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre, voted to disband after Hong Kong police charged seven of its leaders, as well as the organization itself, under the NSL, and froze the group’s assets. In October Chief Executive Carrie Lam ordered the Alliance removed from the city’s Companies Registry.

By law any person claiming to be an officer of a banned group may be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison and fined. Those convicted of providing meeting space or other aid to a banned group may also be sentenced to fines and jail time.

Israel, West Bank and Gaza

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The law provides for this right, and the government generally respected it.

On April 4, the Supreme Court struck down the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic emergency regulation that allowed for a temporary limitation of the right to demonstrate to less than a mile from one’s home. The verdict determined the regulation constituted a disproportionate limit on the freedom of assembly because the location of a demonstration is critical to its message, particularly when it relates to public officials. The verdict also canceled nearly 11,000 monetary fines police issued for related violations. The verdict determined a separate regulation limiting the number of demonstrators to groups of 20 and requiring compliance with social distancing measures was lawful.

There were reports that police used excessive force in response to protests. For example, on February 26, police used riot control measures, including rubber-coated bullets, tear gas canisters, and stun grenades, during an Umm al-Fahm demonstration against crime and violence, leading to the injury of dozens of protesters, including Knesset member Yousef Jabareen and Umm al-Fahem mayor Samir Sobhi. According to Adalah, police ordered the use of force before the demonstration began and used unreasonable and life-threatening measures against demonstrators who were acting in accordance with the law. According to police, the demonstration escalated to a violation of public order when demonstrators attempted to block a road and threw stones, which led to the injury of eight police officers. On November 23, DIPO announced that it decided not to open a criminal investigation into police conduct during the demonstration.

On April 12, ACRI and the Movement for Freedom of Information in Israel demanded that police make public its standard policies, procedures, and methods for dispersing protesters, such as water cannon, soft bullets, and chemical irritants, that police had withheld when replying to a 2020 freedom of information petition.

On January 14, the prosecution filed an indictment against a leading anti-Netanyahu activist for organizing an illegal gathering, punishable by up to one year’s imprisonment, after the activist led two “illegal” marches. A deputy state attorney had previously issued a 2020 directive to limit such indictments on grounds they potentially violate freedom of assembly and expression.

The trial against Israel National Police chief superintendent Niso Guetta, indicted in 2020 for assault during demonstrations against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, continued at the year’s end.

On May 12, ACRI stated many Arab citizens and Palestinian residents of Jerusalem received text messages to their cellphones in Arabic, signed by Shin Bet, with the message, “You have been identified as a person who participated in violent acts in the al-Aqsa mosque. You will be held accountable.” ACRI and Adalah appealed to authorities to stop sending these text messages and act against the officials who initiated and approved the action, asserting it was illegal and done absent approval from competent authorities.

There were reports that Israeli authorities used excessive force against protesters in East Jerusalem. Between April and June, hundreds of Palestinian and Jewish Israeli protesters from across Israel and East Jerusalem came to Sheikh Jarrah to show their support for families at risk of eviction and to protest the dispossession of Palestinians from their homes, according to HRDF. Police and media characterized the protest as violent. HRDF reported that Israeli police used aggressive and disproportionate force to disperse the demonstrations, injuring hundreds of protesters. Security forces deployed stun grenades and tear gas canisters, sprayed “skunk water,” and fired sponge grenades, according to HRDF. Between April 29 and May 21, HRDF provided legal aid to 42 Palestinian and Israeli peaceful protesters arrested in Sheikh Jarrah, some of whom HRDF claimed were hospitalized after being attacked by police. Most of the protesters were released after one or two court hearings on bail with 30- to 60-day bans from Sheikh Jarrah, and others were released at the police station with 15-day bans from Sheikh Jarrah.

On May 3, HRDF alleged that Israeli police pepper sprayed and attacked Sheikh Jarrah human rights activist Salah Diab, injuring his leg. On May 6, HRDF reported that 21 Israeli Jewish attackers arrived from the newly established “office” of extreme-right member of the Knesset Itamar Ben-Gvir across the street to pepper spray Palestinians congregating in front of Diab’s house. The incident escalated as the two groups threw plastic chairs and stools at each other. Following the attack, four Palestinians, including Salah Diab, were arrested for “racially motivated” attacks, while one of the Jewish attackers was detained and released the same evening, according to HRDF. On July 11, Diab was summoned to a termination-of-employment hearing from his work at an Israeli supermarket for violating company values and policies and harming its reputation due to his activism and participation in the Sheikh Jarrah protest. According to HRDF, the campaign for his dismissal reportedly was led by the right-wing NGO Honenu and politicians such as Ben-Gvir and Jerusalem deputy mayor Arieh King,

On September 24, during the weekly protest in Sheikh Jarrah, four protesters were violently arrested by police for waving Palestinian flags. According to HRDF, Jerusalem police forces regularly confiscated, attacked, and arrested peaceful protesters who waved the Palestinian flag, despite Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev’s explicit order to the police commissioner and high-ranking officers that the Palestinian flag may only be confiscated during demonstrations under exceptional circumstances (see section 2.a.).

Freedom of Association

The law provides for this right, and the government generally respected it.

The law prohibits registration of an association or a party if its goals include denial of the existence of the State of Israel or of the democratic character of the state.

The law requires NGOs receiving more than one-half of their funding from foreign governments to state this fact in their official publications, applications to attend Knesset meetings, websites, public campaigns, and any communication with the public. The law allows a fine for NGOs that violate these rules. The government had not taken legal action against any NGO for failing to comply with the law as of year’s end. Local NGOs critical of the government asserted the law sought to intimidate them, delegitimize them in the public eye, and prevent them from receiving foreign government funding (see section 5).

Human rights NGOs alleged that Israeli authorities cited laws against terrorism or protecting national security to arrest or punish critics of the government or deter criticism of government policies or officials. On October 22, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz announced that Israel was designating six Palestinian NGOs (al-Haq, Addameer, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees) as terrorist organizations, alleging connections to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist organization. Local and international human rights groups strongly criticized the designation, alleging overly broad use of terrorism laws that created a chilling effect on civil society groups conducting legitimate human rights work. The designated groups are based in the West Bank, but the designation applies both within the West Bank under IDF military order and in Israel under the 2016 counterterrorism legislation.

The UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights criticized the designation as a blatant misuse of counterterrorism legislation designed to ban human rights activities and to silence speech advocating for respect for human rights. On October 25, 22 Israeli NGOs released a joint statement of support and solidarity with the designated NGOs calling on the Israeli government and international community to oppose the decision and alleging the designation was done to criminalize and prevent documentation of human rights abuses and prevent legal advocacy and aid for human rights work.

Tibet

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Tibetans do not enjoy the rights to assemble peacefully or to associate freely.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

Even in areas officially designated as “autonomous,” Tibetans generally lacked the right to organize. Persons who organized public events for any purpose not endorsed by authorities faced harassment, arrest, prosecution, and violence. Unauthorized assemblies were frequently broken up by force. Any assembly deemed by authorities as a challenge to the PRC or its policies, for example, to advocate for Tibetan language rights, to mark religious holidays, or to protect the area’s unique natural environment, provoked a particularly strong response both directly against the assembled persons and in authorities’ public condemnation of the assembly. Authorities acted preemptively to forestall unauthorized assemblies.

Freedom of Association

In accordance with PRC law, only civil society organizations approved by the CCP and essentially directed by it are legal. Policies noted above designed to bring monasteries under CCP control are one example of this policy. Persons attempting to organize any sort of independent association were subject to harassment, arrest on a wide range of charges, or violent suppression.

Turkey

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The government restricted the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

Although the constitution provides for freedom of assembly, the law provides several grounds for the government to limit that right. The law stipulates penalties for protesters convicted of carrying items that might be construed as weapons, prohibits the use of symbols linked to illegal organizations (including chanting slogans), and criminalizes covering one’s face while protesting. The law permits police to use tinted water in water cannons, potentially to tag protesters for later identification and prosecution. The law also allows police to take persons into “protective custody” without a prosecutor’s authorization if there is reasonable suspicion that they are a threat to themselves or to public order. The antiterror law gives provincial governors enhanced authority to ban protests and public gatherings, a ban some governors enacted broadly during the year.

In April the Ministry of Interior issued a circular banning all audio and visual recordings of citizens and police at protests. The Ankara Bar Association and human rights groups criticized the regulation and noted that it will hinder documentation of police violence at protests. Despite the ban journalists and protest participants continued to film protests, risking arrest. The country’s top administrative court stayed the execution of the circular in November and annulled it in December, finding that it violated freedom of the press.

The government regarded many demonstrations as security threats to the state, deploying large numbers of riot police to control crowds, frequently using excessive force, resulting in injuries, detentions, and arrests. At times the government used its authority to detain persons before protests were held on the premise that they might cause civil disruption. The government generally did not investigate security forces’ actions. The HRFT reported that in the first 11 months of the year, police intervened in at least 291 peaceful demonstrations and prohibited at least 88. As many as 3,540 persons claimed they were beaten and received other inhuman treatment during these police interventions. Human rights NGOs asserted the government’s failure to delineate clearly in the law the circumstances that justify the use of force contributed to disproportionate use of force during protests.

In March hundreds of police officers restricted access to the annual International Women’s Day (March 8) demonstration in Istanbul. Police detained 13 women, including a 17-year-old minor, following the march. Prosecutors ordered the detention on charges of insulting the president after reviewing videos of the demonstration. Human Rights Watch reported that during interrogations police identified the phrase “Tayyip [President Erdogan’s first name], run, run, run, women are coming,” a slogan used during the demonstrations, as criminally offensive.

Also in March, President Erdogan announced his decision to withdraw the country from the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, commonly known as the Istanbul Convention (see section 6, Women), precipitating mass protests. On July 1, thousands of demonstrators took part in a protest in Istanbul. The Istanbul governor’s office had issued a permit for the demonstration, but police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who attempted to breach a second row of police barricades. No detentions or serious injuries were reported, but many women posted photographs of minor injuries on social media.

Authorities continued to press charges against 33 members of the organization Ankara Women’s Platform who joined protests against the country’s possible withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention in 2020. The defendants faced charges for violating the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations. In June police dispersed a protest that the Ankara Women’s Platform staged in front of the courthouse where a hearing in the case was being held. Police prevented platform members from making a statement in support of defendants and used pepper spray against them. Police detained 20 demonstrators. Several demonstrators reported being battered during their detention.

The government continued selectively to ban demonstrations outright if they were critical of the government and selectively applied COVID-19 restrictive measures to demonstrations. In May the governor of Rize Province implemented a month-long ban on protests, marches, and public statements in Rize’s Ikizdere District after protests broke out in April against the opening of a stone quarry. Prior to the ban, law enforcement officers fined protesters for not complying with the COVID-19 curfew. In April, Jandarma officers used tear gas to disperse protesting residents of Ikizdere, detaining and releasing several the same day. Some of protesters reported injuries due to police intervention.

In January the Istanbul governor used the COVID-19 pandemic as grounds to announce a ban on all protests and public gatherings in the two Istanbul districts where Bogazici University campuses are located. The governor of Adana similarly banned protests in Adana from January to February after protests over the Bogazici University rector appointment broke out in the city. Ankara authorities selectively applied blanket COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings to detain Bogazici protesters. Police detained hundreds of protesters across the country and used undue force that some protesters alleged amounted to torture (see section 1.c.).

Istanbul police continued to prevent the vigil of the “Saturday Mothers” from taking place on Istiklal Street in Istanbul, detaining three group members during the commemoration of the vigil’s 800th week in July. Since the 1990s, the Saturday Mothers gathered to commemorate the disappearances of relatives following their detention by security forces in the 1980s and 1990s and to call for accountability. Of the group, 46 members continued to face criminal charges for violating the law by holding their 700th weekly vigil in 2018.

As in previous years, police intervened in demonstrations to honor International Workers’ Day on May 1. The press reported that police detained more than 200 demonstrators violating COVID-19 curfews, mainly in Istanbul. Videos showed police jostling with unions leaders and other demonstrators and throwing them on the ground in Istanbul. Authorities allowed some commemorations that received prior government approval to proceed, with the Istanbul governor’s office reporting that police only intervened in “illegal” gatherings. The Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions of Turkey reported that police barred journalists from documenting police violence, per the April circular (see above).

Throughout the year the governors of Van, Tunceli, Mus, Hakkari, and several other provinces banned public protests, demonstrations, gatherings of any kind, and the distribution of brochures.

Authorities restricted the rights of assembly of LGBTQI+ individuals and allies throughout the year (see section 6).

Freedom of Association

While the law provides for freedom of association, the government continued to restrict this right. The government used provisions of the antiterror law to prevent associations and foundations it had previously closed due to alleged threats to national security from reopening. In its 2020 end-of-year report, the Inquiry Commission on the State of Emergency Measures reported that 208 of the 1,727 associations and foundations closed following the 2016 coup attempt have been allowed to reopen. Observers widely reported the appeals process for institutions seeking redress through the Inquiry Commission on the State of Emergency Measures remained opaque and ineffective (see section 1.e., Denial of Fair Public Trial).

By law persons organizing an association do not need to notify authorities beforehand, but an association must provide notification before interacting with international organizations or receiving financial support from abroad and must provide detailed documents on such activities. Representatives of associations stated this requirement placed an undue burden on their operations. Human rights and civil society organizations, groups promoting LGBTQI+ rights, and women’s groups in particular, stated that the government used regular and detailed audits to create administrative burdens and to intimidate them by threatening large fines.

Human rights groups reported that since the passage of the counterterrorism financing legislation, Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, in late December 2020, government audits had become more frequent and onerous. The law expanded the Ministry of Interior’s powers to audit, suspend staff and governing board members, and temporarily shut down operations of NGOs without judicial review. Although authorities did not close any civil society organization using this law during the year, NGOs reported that the law had already had a substantial chilling effect. Civil society organization warned that the law provided authorities with expanded powers to punitively target civil society organizations engaged in politically sensitive work, and some organizations reported restricting their normal activities to reduce the likelihood of attracting adverse government attention.

In July the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission adopted an expert opinion criticizing the law, noting its stipulations regarding aid collection and mandatory yearly audits could be applied punitively and arbitrarily to restrict NGO activity in violation of freedom of association. The opinion also noted that the law’s provisions potentially enabling the government to appoint trustees to NGOs without approval from the associations’ members “constitutes a serious infringement of the right of associations to conduct their own affairs.” The opinion also expressed concern that the provisions of the law apply indiscriminately to the entire civil society sector rather than to specific NGOs identified as being vulnerable to financing by terrorist entities.

In April the Ministry of Interior suspended the board of the Turkey Retired Officers Association after it pledged support for a controversial public statement on the Montreux Convention issued by 103 retired admirals. The government alleged the statement included an implicit coup threat and detained at least 14 of the signatories, later releasing them under travel bans. The ministry cited the Law on Associations in suspending the association’s board. In December prosecutors filed an indictment seeking up to 12 years in prison for the signatories of the statement.

The case against former Amnesty International honorary chair Taner Kilic and three other human rights defenders continued in appeals court. Authorities charged the defendants with “membership in a terrorist organization” or “aiding a terrorist organization without being a member,” largely stemming from attendance at a 2017 workshop, Protecting Human Rights Advocates – Digital Security, held on Istanbul’s Buyukada Island. In 2020 an Istanbul court convicted Kilic and three others on terrorism-related charges. The activists remained free pending appeal; the 2018 ban on Kilic’s foreign travel, however, remained in place.

Following the July 2020 passage of a law allowing multiple bar associations in populous provinces and the subsequent founding of second bar associations in Istanbul and Ankara, some lawyers reported government pressure to join the new associations. All 80 domestic bar associations, as well as human rights groups, criticized the 2020 law, alleging it would divide bar associations along political lines and diminish the voices of bar associations critical of the government’s actions. Bar associations in major metropolitan areas have wielded significant political power and influence, particularly in matters of human rights and rule of law. In February the original Istanbul bar association issued a statement noting it had received complaints that public officials were pressuring lawyers to switch membership to the newly established bar association. By year’s end, however, the second bar association of Istanbul had approximately 2,300 members, only a slight increase above the minimum legal requirement of 2,000 members. The second bar association in Ankara was established in October.

Bar association and other civil society organization representatives reported that police sometimes attended organizational meetings and recorded them, which the representatives interpreted as an effort to intimidate them.

West Bank and Gaza

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Authorities in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem limited and restricted Palestinian residents’ freedoms of peaceful assembly and association. The Israeli military issued an order in 1967 which requires Palestinians in the West Bank to obtain a permit for any protest involving 10 or more persons; during the year there were no known instances in which Israeli authorities granted permission for such a protest. The Palestinian Basic Law requires PA permission for protests of 50 persons or more.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

PA law permits public meetings, processions, and assemblies within legal limits. Both the PA and Hamas security forces selectively restricted or dispersed peaceful protests and demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza during the year.

The PASF arrested dozens of protesters in the summer following Nizar Banat’s killing on June 24 (see section 1.a., Arbitrary or Unlawful Killings, and section 1.d., Arbitrary Arrests or Detention).

Some NGOs claimed the PASF used emergency COVID-19 measures as a pretext to crack down on dissent. Palestinian activists and the family of Nizar Banat asserted that emergency orders put in place to address COVID-19 were abused by the PASF to prevent protests and a memorial service for Banat on September 18. A trial in the July 2020 case of 22 anticorruption activists arrested after gathering for protests despite their permit request being denied under coronavirus emergency regulations continued at year’s end. One activist’s case was thrown out on December 19 due to a witness’ failure to appear in court; the other 21 remained free while the trial proceeded.

On November 30, the Ramallah Court dropped charges against seven activists accused of illegally gathering in July during protests following Banat’s death, citing lack of evidence.

According to a Hamas decree, any public assembly or celebration in Gaza requires prior permission. Hamas used unjust arrest to prevent some events from taking place, including political events affiliated with Fatah. Hamas also attempted to impede criticism of its policies by imposing arbitrary demands for the approval of meetings on political or social topics.

A 1967 Israeli military order covering the West Bank and Gaza stipulates that a “political” gathering of 10 or more persons requires a permit from the regional commander of military forces, which Israeli commanders rarely granted. The penalty for conviction of a breach of the order is up to 10 years’ imprisonment or a fine. The IDF Central Command declared areas of the West Bank to be “closed military zones” in which the IDF prohibited public assembly by Palestinians. Israeli military law prohibits Palestinians from insulting a soldier, participating in an unpermitted demonstration or march consisting of more than 10 persons, and “incitement” (encouraging others to engage in civil disobedience).

There were reports that Israeli authorities used excessive force against protesters in East Jerusalem. Between April and June, hundreds of Palestinian and Jewish Israeli protesters from across Israel and East Jerusalem came to Sheikh Jarrah to show their support for families at risk of eviction and to protest the dispossession of Palestinians from their homes, according to the HRDF. Police and media characterized the protest as violent; the HRDF reported that Israeli police used aggressive and disproportionate force to disperse the demonstrations, injuring hundreds of protesters. Israeli security forces reportedly deployed stun grenades and tear gas canisters, sprayed “skunk water,” and fired sponge grenades, according to the HRDF. Between April 29 and May 21, the HRDF provided legal aid to 42 Palestinian and Israeli peaceful protesters arrested in Sheikh Jarrah, some of whom the HRDF alleged were hospitalized after being attacked by police. Most of the protesters were released after one or two court hearings on bail with 30- to 60-day bans from Sheikh Jarrah, while others were released at the police station with 15-day bans from Sheikh Jarrah.

On August 21-22, the PASF arrested approximately 30 protesters during a series of protests memorializing well-known PA critic Nizar Banat, including Ubay al-Aboudi, director of the Bisan Center for Research and Development. The PA charged protesters with participating in an unauthorized protest and more dubious charges of disparaging government institutions, insulting civil servants, and inciting sectarian hatred. Following international and diplomatic pressure, protesters were released within days; their first hearing was scheduled for November.

According to Amnesty International, on the evening of July 5, Palestinian security forces detained at least 15 persons, including protesters, journalists, and a lawyer, after violently dispersing a peaceful gathering in front of the Ballou’ police station in Ramallah. According to Amnesty International, police in riot gear holding shields dispersed the gathering with “wanton force,” beating protesters, dragging them on the ground, spraying them with pepper spray and pulling their hair. Several female protesters also alleged sexual harassment by police, including groping.

During the Sheikh Jarrah protests, the HRDF alleged Israeli settlers repeatedly attacked Salah Diab, a local human rights activist, and police detained him numerous times throughout May. On May 3, the HRDF alleged that Israeli police pepper sprayed and attacked Diab, injuring his leg. On May 6, the HRDF reported that 21 Israeli Jewish attackers pepper-sprayed Palestinians who were breaking their fast during Ramadan in front of Diab’s house. The attackers allegedly came from the newly established “office” across the street from extreme-right Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir. The incident escalated as the two groups threw plastic chairs and stools at each other. Following the attack, four Palestinians including Diab, were arrested for “racially motivated” attacks, while one of the Jewish attackers was detained and released the same evening, according to the HRDF. On July 11, Diab was summoned to a termination of employment hearing from his work at Israel’s Mega Supermarket Chain. In the letter sent to Diab, Mega accused him of violating company values and policies and harming its reputation due to his activism and participation in the Sheikh Jarrah protest. Local Israeli officials, including a deputy mayor of Jerusalem, reportedly campaigned for termination of Diab’s employment.

According to the HRDF, Jerusalem police forces regularly confiscated, attacked, and arrested peaceful protesters who waved the Palestinian flag, despite Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev’s explicit order to the police commissioner and high-ranking officers that the Palestinian flag may only be confiscated during demonstrations under exceptional circumstances.

Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro faced 16 charges in a trial in an Israeli military court that began in 2016. On January 6, an Israeli judge at the Ofer Military Court convicted Amro on six counts, including participating in a rally without a permit, obstructing a soldier, and assault. On January 26, the UN special rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders and on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 issued a statement condemning Amro’s conviction. On March 22, the Military Court sentenced Amro to a three-month suspended prison sentence with two years’ probation. According to the HRDF, the activity for which Amro was indicted was entirely peaceful, and he was in turn assaulted by soldiers, police officers and settlers. According to the HRDF, this created a chilling effect on other human rights defenders who might fear facing similar criminal proceedings. Amro appealed the conviction. Haaretz reported the IDF has detained Amro at least 20 times 2018.

Freedom of Association

PA law allows freedom of association. PA authorities sometimes imposed limitations on the freedom of association in the West Bank, including on labor organizations (see section 7.a.). NGOs stated a regulation subjecting “nonprofit companies” to PA approval of their projects and activities prior to receiving funds from donors impeded their independence and threatened the ability of both local and international nonprofits to operate freely in the West Bank.

In Gaza, Hamas attempted to prevent various organizations from operating. This included some organizations Hamas accused of being Fatah-affiliated, as well as private businesses and NGOs that Hamas deemed to be in violation of its interpretation of Islamic social norms. Hamas claimed supervisory authority over all NGOs, and Hamas representatives regularly harassed NGO employees and requested information on staff, salaries, and activities.

According to the PCHR, on September 21, de facto authorities’ police entered al-Azhar University campus in Gaza and ordered students to take off their Palestinian kufiyah, claiming there were orders to ban wearing kufiyahs. The center added that police detained and abused all those who refused to obey the orders, subjecting them to degrading treatment.

Human rights NGOs alleged that Israeli authorities cited laws against terrorism or protecting national security to arrest or punish critics of the government or deter criticism of government policies or officials. On October 22, Israeli minister of defense Benny Gantz announced that Israel was designating six Palestinian NGOs (al-Haq, Addameer, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees) as terrorist organizations, alleging connections to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization. Local and international human rights groups strongly criticized the designation, alleging that overly broad use of terrorism laws created a chilling effect on civil society groups conducting legitimate human rights work. The designated groups are based in the West Bank, but the designation applies both within the West Bank under IDF military order, and in Israel under the law.

The UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights criticized the designation as a blatant misuse of counterterrorism legislation designed to ban human rights activities and silence voices advocating for respect for human rights. On October 25, 22 Israeli NGOs released a joint statement of support and solidarity with the designated NGOs, calling on the Israeli government and international community to oppose the decision and alleging the designation was done to criminalize and prevent documentation of human rights abuses and prevent legal advocacy and aid for human rights work.

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