HRW Blasts Palestinian Authorities for Human Rights Abuses, But Officials Call Report Biased
Human Rights Watch has accused both the PA and Hamas of similar human rights abuses, but both deny any abuses were committed on government orders.
The international rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas of human rights’ abuses in a report released last Tuesday. The PA is accused of arresting and torturing people in the West Bank while Hamas is accused of the same crimes in occupied Gaza. Both PA and Hamas, however, accuse HRW of misrepresentation and factual lies, according to Al Jazeera.
A 149-page report by HRW “Two Authorities, One Way, Zero Dissent: Arbitrary Arrest and Torture under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas” was based on a two-year investigation of 86 cases and interviews with 147 people who were mostly “ex-detainees, family members, lawyers and NGO officials.” Also included were reviews of photographic and video evidence, medical reports, and court documents.
The authors of the report accused the PA and Hamas of arbitrarily arresting, beating, torturing and detaining people without justification. The report also said the Fatah-controlled PA often arrests activists who are affiliated with Hamas in the West Bank, while Hamas arrests Fatah activists in Gaza.
HRW called the arrests for “nonviolent speech acts” serious violations of international human rights law and in violation of international human rights treaties. “The torture as practiced by both the PA and Hamas may amount to a crime against humanity, given its systematic practice over many years,” said the HRW report.
Human Rights Watch assert their report shows that both the PA and Hamas “regularly detain critics without a reasonable basis to suspect they committed a cognizable offense and rely on dubious or broadly worded charges to justify detaining them and to pressure them to stop their activities. While the specifics differ between the West Bank and Gaza, the result in both places is shrinking space for free speech, association, and assembly.”
Palestinian Authority Reaction
But the Palestinian Authority and Hamas call the HRW report untrue and biased. Brigadier-General Adnan Dameri, spokesman for the PA troops in West Bank, told Al Jazeera that the HRW report was incorrect and full of bais.
“No one from the HRW ever contacted us to get accurate information from us on the incidents they allegedly said constitute human rights violations,” he said to Al Jazeera.
“The state of Palestine has signed all international laws and conventions that ban human rights abuses and torture and is committed to enforce them, Dameria added.
Dameri acknowledged to Al Jazeera that incidents of human rights abuses may have taken place in PA facilities, but those cases were not “systematic” nor sanctioned by the government.
“Abuses did take place, but they were committed by individual officers acting on their own, not based on government policy,” he said.
“We are not Switzerland, but we are doing everything we can to uphold our laws and prevent human rights violations should they take place by individual officers,” he said
“People criticize the government here all the time. We don’t arrest people for mere criticism unless a crime is committed such as hate speech and there must be an arrest warrant for that,” he added.
Iyad al-Bozom, the spokesman for the Hamas Palestinian Ministry of Interior and Security Forces in Gaza, said almost the same thing to Al Jazeera. He said the Gaza police force is committed to upholding the law which includes a ban on human rights abuses and torture.
“All of our law enforcement facilities have been and still are open to inspection to Palestinian and international human rights organizations,” he told Al Jazeera.
Like Dameri, Bozom acknowledged that some human rights abuses were committed but they were committed by individuals acting on their own will and not sanctioned by authorities. He clarified that “people criticize the government or Hamas here all the time, but we don’t arrest people for that.”