Palestinian and international human rights groups on Thursday warned of a decline in freedom of expression in the West Bank, amidst the banning of Egypt solidarity rallies by the Palestinian Authority. On Wednesday, PA security forces shut down a rally in Ramallah, using batons to push demonstrators back and detaining at least two protesters.

In a statement, the Palestinian Commission for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned the PA’s closure of the demonstrations. PCHR also added that a number of journalists were also detained at the event.

PA forces also banned a similar gathering in central Ramallah on Thursday, the rights group said.

PA security spokesman Adnan Ad-Dmeiri announced Thursday that ‘unlicensed gatherings’ were banned in order to preserve order in the West Bank.

PCHR said banning gatherings breaches Palestinian Basic Law which affirms the rights of citizens to hold meetings freely, provided they submit a written notification to authorities signed by at least three organizers.

In addition, banning demonstrations also breaches the universal declaration of human rights, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

The group urged the PA to allow citizens, particularly Palestinian youth, to express their views freely without intimidation.

The PA’s handling of solidarity rallies also drew criticism from Human Rights Watch on Thursday.

‘The Palestinian Authority should immediately make clear that its ‘state-building’ training of security forces does not include beating peaceful demonstrators,’ said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Mideast chief.

‘The PA should take action against the responsible police officers or the US and EU should find another use for their taxpayers’ money,’ she added in a statement issued by Human Rights Watch.

Other rallies expressing solidarity with the Egyptian people are planned to take place this weekend in the West Bank, including Ramallah and Bethlehem.