Middle East

PA, Hamas routinely arrest, torture opponents: Watchdog

‘As PA-Hamas feud has deepened, each has targeted the other’s supporters,’ HRW says in new report

Anees Suheil Barghouti   | 23.10.2018
PA, Hamas routinely arrest, torture opponents: Watchdog

Palestinian Territory

RAMALLAH, Palestine

The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas authorities in Gaza routinely arrest and torture peaceful critics and opponents, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released Tuesday.

Entitled “Two Authorities, One Way, Zero Dissent: Arbitrary Arrest and Torture Under the PA and Hamas”, the 149-page report evaluates patterns of arrest and detention conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“As the PA-Hamas feud has deepened, each has targeted the other’s supporters,” HRW says in the report.

According to HRW, the report includes interviews with 147 witnesses, including former detainees and their relatives, lawyers, and representatives of civil society groups.

“Systematic and arbitrary arrest and torture violate major human rights treaties to which Palestine recently acceded,” the report states.

It adds: “Few security officers have been prosecuted and none have been convicted for wrongful arrest or torture as far as HRW has been able to determine.”

PA security forces, the report goes on to state, “held 221 Palestinians for various periods between January 2017 and August 2018 in administrative detention without charge or trial under a regional governor’s order”.

The report also notes that several former PA detainees interviewed by HRW had also been detained by Israel, which coordinates with the PA on security issues.

“In Gaza, meanwhile, Hamas authorities sometimes condition release on the detainee signing a commitment to halt criticism or protests,” the report asserts.

Both authorities, meanwhile, deny that the abuses amount to anything more than isolated incidents, which are investigated and for which wrongdoers are held to account.

Evidence collected by HRW, however, appears to contradict these claims.

HRW representatives met with members of the PA intelligence services in Ramallah, but were unable to accept an invitation from Hamas to meet in Gaza because Israel refused to allow senior HRW officials to enter the blockaded coastal strip.

Omar Shakir, HRW's Israel and Palestine director, told Anadolu Agency that both authorities -- the PA and Hamas -- should abide by the international rights treaties to which they have acceded within the last five years.

In a letter to HRW, Shakir said, Hamas had stressed its commitment to upholding all international treaties ratified by the State of Palestine.

Shakir went on to assert that the systematic practice of torture -- by both sides -- “may amount to a crime against humanity prosecutable at the International Criminal Court (ICC)”.

“HRW has long encouraged the ICC prosecutor to open a formal probe into Israeli and Palestinian conduct in Palestine, which is a party to the ICC,” Shakir said.

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