Gaza NGO condemns Hamas restrictions

2011-08-16 18:28
Gaza City - A Palestinian rights group on Tuesday slammed Gaza's Hamas leaders for requiring travellers on NGO-sponsored trips to submit their plans to the interior ministry under new rules.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said the Hamas interior ministry had announced the new rules requiring people going to the West Bank or abroad under the auspices of an NGO to submit their trip details two weeks before travel.

Travellers would have to disclose their destination, the length and purpose of the trip, and which NGO was sponsoring it, it said.

"The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights is shocked and strongly denounces the declaration issued by the ministry of interior," the group said.

PCHR said new rules were part of "a trend" of "unprecedented and unacceptable intervention in NGOs' work".

It cited another Hamas decision, dated August 2, which said NGOs would now require interior ministry approval before proceeding with donor-funded work, as well as proposed legislative amendments that would grant it unprecedented access to NGOs' documents and supervision over their work.

None of the measures have been implemented yet, PCHR said, but it warned they were part of an increasingly difficult environment for NGOs working in the impoverished and densely populated strip.

"This trend is part of a policy that will eventually lead to undermining the foundations of an independent and active society," it said, calling on Hamas premier Ismail Haniya to "immediately and personally intervene to ensure respect for the law" and the independence of NGOs.

Usaid, Hamas clash

The criticism comes after a clash between Hamas and the US Agency for International Development (Usaid) last week.

Usaid briefly suspended aid to Gaza after the Islamist group said it wanted access to the files of its affiliated NGOs throughout the Palestinian territory.

"Hamas, through a series of measures it has imposed over the past months, has created an environment which jeopardises the ability of non-governmental organisations to provide assistance to Gaza's most vulnerable residents," a US official told AFP.

But the organisation agreed to restart work after a UN-mediated deal under which Hamas will refrain from inspections for three months. In the meantime, Usaid and Hamas will seek a compromise deal allowing work to continue in Gaza.

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