A new Report by Human Rights Watch Two
Authorities, One Way, Zero Dissent finds that both Hamas and the Palestinian
Authority systematically use torture as an instrument of policy. The Report
begins with an overview of what the situation in the Occupied Territories is:
In the 25 years since
Palestinians gained a degree of self-rule over the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip, their authorities have established machineries of repression to crush
dissent, including through the use of torture.
Both the Fatah-dominated
Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and the Islamic Resistance Movement
(Hamas) in Gaza have in recent years carried out scores of arbitrary arrests
for peaceful criticism of the authorities, particularly on social media, among
independent journalists, on university campuses, and at demonstrations. As the
Fatah-Hamas feud deepened despite attempts at reconciliation, PA security
services have targeted supporters of Hamas and vice versa. Relying primarily on
overly broad laws that criminalize activity such as causing “sectarian strife”
or insulting “higher authorities,” the PA and Hamas use detention to punish
critics and deter them and others from further activism. In detention, security
forces routinely taunt, threaten, beat, and force detainees into painful stress
positions for hours at a time.
It is no
surprise that the PA, which is a sub-contractor for the Israeli State and military,
should torture Palestinians. This group of thugs and misfits has no other
reason to exist other than to prevent a new Palestinian uprising. As the Quisling-in-Chief,
Mahmoud Abbas once said, co-operation with the Israeli security services is ‘sacrosanct’.
Or as the Times of Israel put
Strange as this may sound, despite the ongoing
political schism between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the open
hatred between Ramallah and Washington, the security coordination remains in
place, at the direction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and
both Israeli and Palestinian security forces have a share in preventing attacks
What will be
of surprise to many is that Hamas, which purports to be a Palestinian resistance
organisation, should also engage in the torture and abuse of Palestinians. It should
not however be that surprising. As an Islamist organisation that was the Gaza
branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas is a right-wing religious group. It has
no social programme worthy of the name. Like all similar religious groups its
politics are backward looking, socially and politically. Islam is a means of
justifying repression. Hamas’s origins lie in the desire of the Israeli state
to find a counterweight to secular Palestinian nationalism. Hamas was virtually
of the Israeli state.
of both Hamas and Fateh/PA are deeply shameful. The Times of Israel article below is headed ‘Calls by Palestinians to
safeguard rights ring hollow’. After all how can Palestinians
oppose Israel’s use of torture when the so-called Palestinian organisations do
exactly the same? It is no surprise that the Zionist media will exploit this
for all its worth. Both Abbas and
Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister, should hang their heads in shame.
There is no
point in either Hamas or the PA denying that torture is routinely used. The
Report by Human Rights Watch is clearly a thorough and painstaking one. Neither
Hamas or the PA are prepared to record all interrogations so their denials will
cut no ice.
Those who have
had illusions in Hamas should, as a result of this, think again. It would seem
that their main goal is not to create a free and independent Palestine but a
police state run according to their interpretation of Islam.
torture and other methods of silencing dissent Hamas is playing the Zionist game.
(Ramallah) – The Fatah-led Palestinian
Authority in the West Bank and Hamas authorities in Gaza routinely arrest
and torture peaceful critics and opponents, Human Rights Watch said in a report
released today. As the Palestinian Authority-Hamas feud has deepened, each has
targeted the other’s supporters.
report, “‘Two Authorities, One Way,
Zero Dissent:’ Arbitrary Arrest and Torture Under the Palestinian Authority and
Hamas,” evaluates patterns of arrest and detention conditions in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip, 25 years after the Oslo Accords granted Palestinians a
degree of self-rule over these areas and more than a decade after Hamas seized
effective control over the Gaza Strip. Human Rights Watch detailed more than
two dozen cases of people detained for no clear reason beyond writing a
critical article or Facebook post or belonging to the wrong student group or
“Twenty-five years after Oslo, Palestinian authorities have gained only
limited power in the West Bank and Gaza, but yet, where they have autonomy,
they have developed parallel police states,”
said Tom Porteous, deputy
program director at Human Rights Watch. “Calls
by Palestinian officials to safeguard Palestinian rights ring hollow as they
Watch interviewed 147 witnesses, including former detainees and their
relatives, lawyers, and representatives of nongovernmental groups, and reviewed
photographic evidence, medical reports, and court documents. The report
reflects substantive responses to the findings from the main security agencies
implicated in the underlying abuses.
arbitrary arrests and torture violate major human rights treaties to which
Palestine recently acceded. Few security officers have been prosecuted and none
have been convicted for wrongful arrest or torture, as far as Human Rights
Watch has been able to determine.
“The fact that Israel systematically violates
Palestinians’ most basic rights is no reason to remain silent in the face of
the systematic repression of dissent and the torture Palestinian security
forces are perpetrating,”
Jabarin, executive director of the Palestinian human rights organization al-Haq
and a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Advisory
Watch met with the Palestinian Authority Intelligence Services in Ramallah, but
was unable to accept an offer from Hamas authorities to meet in Gaza because
Israel refused to grant permits for senior Human Rights Watch officials to
enter the Gaza Strip for this purpose. Israeli authorities also rejected Human Rights Watch’s request for senior
representatives to enter Gaza during October 2018 to present this report at a
authorities deny that abuses amount to more than isolated cases that are
investigated and for which wrongdoers are held to account. The evidence that
Human Rights Watch collected contradicts these claims.
authorities often rely on overly broad laws that criminalize insulting “higher
authorities,” creating “sectarian strife,” or “harming the revolutionary unity”
to detain dissidents for days or weeks, only to release most of them without
referring them to trial, but often leaving charges outstanding. Palestinian
Authority security forces also 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, according to the Palestinian
statutory watchdog Independent Commission for Human Rights.
A number of
former Palestinian Authority detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch had
also been detained by Israel, which coordinates with Palestinian Authority
forces on security issues. In Gaza, Hamas authorities sometimes condition
release on the detainee signing a commitment to halt criticism or protests.
27, the Independent Commission for Human Rights reported that Hamas
security forces in Gaza had arrested more than 50 people affiliated with Fatah
and that Palestinian Authority forces in the West Bank had detained more than
60 affiliated with Hamas, in the span of just a few days.
In the cases
documented, Palestinian forces often threatened, beat, and forced detainees
into painful stress positions for prolonged periods, including using cables or
ropes to hoist up arms behind the back.
Police often used similar tactics to obtain confessions by people detained on
drug or other criminal charges. Security forces also routinely coerced
detainees into providing access to their cellphones and social media accounts.
These measures appear aimed at punishing dissidents and deterring them and
others from further activism.
authorities regularly receive citizen complaints and have systems to
investigate them, only a minority have resulted in a finding of wrongdoing,
according to data provided by the agencies. Even fewer led to an administrative
sanction or referral for criminal prosecution.
authorities should abide by the international human rights treaties they
acceded to over the last five years. Hamas authorities said in a letter to
Human Rights Watch that it considered itself committed to uphold all
international treaties ratified by the State of Palestine. Compliance requires
Palestinian authorities to ensure that an independent body inspects detention
sites and that the authorities investigate complaints credibly and impose
appropriate sanctions if warranted.
systematic practice of torture by Palestinian authorities may amount to a crime
against humanity prosecutable at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Human
Rights Watch 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.
The US and
European states provide support to Palestinian Authority security forces. While
the US in 2018 slashed funding for health and education services for
Palestinians, including all its support for the United Nations Relief Works and
Agency (UNRWA), it continued to set aside funding for security forces,
including allocating US $60 million in International Narcotics Control and Law
Enforcement (INCLE) nonlethal assistance to Palestinian Authority security
forces for the 2018 fiscal year and $35 million for the 2019 fiscal year. Qatar,
Iran, and Turkey financially support Hamas authorities. All of these
countries should suspend assistance to agencies that routinely torture
dissidents – including, for the Palestinian Authority, the Intelligence
Services, Preventive Security, and Joint Security Committee, and, for Hamas,
Internal Security – as long as systematic torture and other serious abuses
by both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas on dissidents and demonstrators,
reporters and bloggers, are both systematic and unpunished,”
that want to help the Palestinian people develop the rule of law should not
support security forces that actively undermine it.”
from Former Detainees
heading home. At the Einab checkpoint, I happened to see the prime minister’s
convoy being held up on the checkpoint. I filmed this scene. After the car I
was in and the convoy was allowed to cross the checkpoint, we were stopped by
one of his escorts. I was arrested and taken to the station of the Preventative
Security Forces in Tulkarm. I was detained in Tulkarm and in Ramallah for four
Barakat, 29, journalist on his arrest by Palestinian Authority (PA) security
forces in the West Bank in July 2017.
written on a hot summer day, ‘Do your children [referring to Hamas leaders]
sleep on the floor like ours do?’ I think the post bothered security forces
and, as a result, I was summoned to appear before Internal Security and later
was charged with the crime of ‘misuse of technology’… I was detained for 15
days… Later, I was released after an agreement with the Interior Ministry.
The agreement pledged not to write or incite against the government.”
· Amer Balousha, 26-year-old activist and journalist
on his arrest in July 2017 by Hamas authorities in Gaza.
plainclothes officer met me at the door [of the Intelligence Services Prison in
Jericho]. He blindfolded me, handcuffed my hands behind my back, and started hitting
me and slamming me against the walls… this lasted for about 10 minutes. The
officer took me to the warden’s office and took the blindfold off, telling me
that this was my “welcome”… [an officer] then said hang him, as in take him
to shabeh. I was transferred from the office to the toilets, there they
blindfolded me again, handcuffed me behind my back, put a piece of cloth and
rope at the center of my handcuffs and pulled it up to the side of the door.
There was a hook between the door and the ceiling. They pulled the cloth up,
raising my hands behind my back. My legs were not shackled, and the tip of my
legs were touching the ground. I was held in this stress position for 45
minutes. An officer hit me with a big stick on my back, between my shoulders,
more than once… After they put me down, I felt my hands were numb up to my
shoulders and I could not hold myself up… [the next day] the Juicer (nickname
for his interrogator in Jericho) told me that ‘I promise you that you will not
leave this place except on a wheelchair.”
· Alaa Zaqeq, 27, detained by PA security forces in
April 2017 for three weeks based on his activism as a graduate student with a
student group affiliated with Hamas.
forced to stand blindfolded the entire day in a room called the bus. There were
5 or 10 people with me. On occasion they sat us down in small chairs, but we
needed permission for everything we did, including sleeping or speaking. I
spent 30 days there… After the first day, the beating started, they asked me to
open my hands and started striking me with a cable and whipping my feet.”
Fouad Jarada, 34-year-old journalist with the
Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, arrested in June 2017 by Hamas forces
three days after a Facebook post critical of a Hamas ally and a string of
critical news reports. Authorities held him for more than two months on charges
of “harming revolutionary unity,” releasing him only when the PA agreed to
arrest journalists considered close to Hamas in the West Bank.
have nightmares… [that] the cell is strangling me and I cannot breathe.”
Fares Jbour, 24, held for 24 days in January 2017
over his activities with a Hamas-affiliated student group at a university in
Hebron in the West Bank
are afraid of writing. They don’t try. They don’t share. They don’t even put
“like” to anyone who wrote anything criticizing the government. They are
Mohammad Lafi, 24-year-old rapper from the Jabalia
Refugee Camp in Gaza, held for five days in January 2017 by Hamas authorities
after he released a music video entitled “Your Right” that called for people to
demonstrate and participated in protests around the electricity crisis.
“I feel I am
being monitored, as if I’m under a microscope. I was released, but, until now,
I feel I am not free. They broke our desire to defend citizens’ rights.”
Taghreed Abu Teer, 47-year-old journalist with the
Palestinian Broading Corporation, detained for 11 days in April 2017 by Hamas
authorities after attending conferences for rival Fatah in Ramallah.
“I live in a
country where it is forbidden to express my opinion. This country is not the
one we dream about, not at all. I don’t think that there is a Palestinian who
would accept that all this struggle would go, and all the years of our lives,
not just ours, but those before us, so that in the end we would have a system
of government that has taken the shape of a dictatorship. It cannot be… it is
very painful that we have a regime before ever having a state. Our problem with
the PA is that they are building security forces and controlling people when we
don’t even control the checkpoint.”
Hamza Zbeidat, 31-year-old who works for a
development nongovernmental group, detained for two days by PA security forces
in May 2016 for a Facebook post that called on Palestinians “to struggle against the PA like we struggle
Illustrative: The hands of a young man tied with rope (nito100; iStock by Getty Images)
Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused both the
Palestinian Authority and Hamas of routinely engaging in “systematic” unwarranted arrests and torture of critics, suspected dissidents
and political opponents, and of developing “parallel
police states” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, respectively.
In a 149-page report based on interviews with 147 witnesses, Human Rights
Watch detailed a common method of abuse and torture known as shabeh — used both
by the PA and Hamas — in which detainees are placed in painful physical
positions for lengthy periods of time. Such practices cause distress and trauma
to detainees, while often leaving “little
or no trace on the body,” the report said.
The widespread occurrence of such brutality indicates that “torture is governmental policy for both the PA and Hamas,” HRW
Shabeh techniques include forcing
detainees into squats, powerfully stretching their arms above or behind them,
and leaving them standing or sitting in child-sized chairs for hours on end.
Palestinian security troops in Hebron, November 14, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
In one example from Gaza,
“a PA civil servant, arrested after a friend tagged him in a Facebook
post calling for protests on the electricity crisis, spent most of his days in
the Internal Security’s Gaza City detention center subjected to positional
abuse… causing him to feel ‘severe pain in my kidneys and spine’ and as if his
neck would ‘break’ and his ‘body is tearing up inside,’” the report said.
In the West Bank, a detained journalist had his hands
tied by rope to the ceiling of a holding room while officers “slowly pulled the rope to apply pressure to
his arms, which caused him to feel so much pain that he had to ask an officer
to pull his pants up after he used the toilet because he could not do it
According to the report, “Palestinian forces in both the West Bank and Gaza regularly use
threats of violence, taunts, solitary confinement, and beatings, including
lashing and whipping of the feet of detainees, to elicit confessions, punish,
and intimidate activists.”
The report, titled “Two Authorities, One
Way, Zero Dissent,” cited more than 20 cases in which activists were
arrested for critical news articles or social media posts, as well as
membership in certain groups or movements frowned upon by authorities. Hamas
and the PA regularly abused each other’s activists in the territories they
control, it added.
Saying the systematic use of torture could amount to a
crime against humanity under the United Nations’ Convention against Torture,
HRW called on the United States, the European Union and other international
powers to halt all aid to the Palestinian agencies responsible for persecution
and abuse — including the PA Preventative Security Forces, General Intelligence
Services and Joint Security Committee, and the Hamas-run Internal Security — “until the authorities curb those practices
and hold those responsible for abuse accountable.”
five years after Oslo, Palestinian authorities have gained only limited power
in the West Bank and Gaza, but yet, where they have autonomy, they have
developed parallel police states,” said Tom Porteous, deputy
program director at Human Rights Watch.
“Calls by Palestinian officials to safeguard
Palestinian rights ring hollow as they crush dissent,” he said.
arbitrary arrests and torture violate major human rights treaties to which
Palestine recently acceded,” the rights group said, and
warned that the “systematic practice of
torture by Palestinian authorities may amount to a crime against humanity
prosecutable at the International Criminal Court.”
Hamas security forces in Gaza City, April 4, 2013. (Wissam Nassar/FLASH90)
Both Hamas and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority
denied the accusations.
The two Palestinian factions split in 2007 after Hamas
violently seized the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to PA President Mahmoud
Abbas. For more than a decade, Hamas has maintained an iron grip on power and
suppressed any signs of public dissent, including street protests and on social
Despite having Western backing, Abbas has also
silenced dissent in the areas of the West Bank he administers under past
agreements with Israel. Last year, he clamped down on social media and news
websites with a vaguely worded decree that critics say allows his government to
jail anyone on charges of harming “national unity” or the “social fabric.”
Mohammed Khatib, a 20-year-old law student and
activist with Hamas’ student branch in the West Bank, told The Associated Press
he was arrested last month and held for 19 days at a Palestinian intelligence
center in the West Bank city of Ramallah. He said he was forced to stand for
hours at a time and hung by his handcuffed hands to a door for 15 minutes, a
stress position meant to cause pain but leave no sign of injury.
not only a violation of human rights, it is a violation of human dignity, a
violation of basic morals,” he said, adding that he believed
the aim was to intimidate him.
HRW’s report also highlights other tactics used to
silence Palestinian dissent and punish activists, among them the seizing of
phones, leaving investigations and charges open, and coercing detainees to
promise to stop any further criticism.
In Gaza, Taghreed Abu Teer, a 47-year-old journalist,
told the AP that she was held by Hamas authorities for 11 days and interrogated
under “humiliating circumstances” for
her activities with the rival Fatah movement.
Palestinian police take part in a training session in the West Bank city of Ramallah in 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
She said she was kept in a dark cell for days at a
time and forced to stand for lengthy periods. Although she was not physically
beaten, she said she could hear the screams of men being tortured nearby, and
that at one point, a man with a whip threatened to beat her as well. More than
a year and a half later, she still cries when she recalls the “unforgettable experience.”
“As long as
I was in the cell, I was wondering what had caused me to end up here,”
she said. She spoke at a relative’s home so her six children would not hear
about the ordeal.
Abu Teer said interrogators threatened to charge her
with collaboration with Israel, widely feared as a stigma, and that most of the
questions focused on a three-day trip she made to the West Bank, where she met
senior Fatah officials and briefed them about the situation in Gaza. She said
interrogators accused her of inciting the Palestinian Authority to make
financial cuts and other punitive measures against Gaza, a tactic meant to
She denied all the allegations, saying she had only
led protests and lobbied for ending the Hamas-Fatah split.
While she was never charged, Hamas officers advised her “to be quiet” and focus on her home and family, “which I considered a veiled threat rather
than advice,” she added.