Palestinian rights group accuses PA and Hamas of torture

Report warns against "security mentality" at the expense of rights, rule of law; points to fallen Arab dictators as examples of failed policies.

May 17, 2011 18:04
2 minute read.
PA police stang guard in West Bank

PA Police 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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RAMALLAH - A human rights body on Tuesday accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) of torture and arbitrary detention and warned it not to repeat the mistakes of Arab states by allowing security forces to become too powerful.

The Independent Commission for Human Rights, releasing an annual report on human rights in the PA-ruled West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, said Hamas was also guilty of torture and arbitrary arrest.

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It was the Palestinian organization's first report since this year's popular uprisings, fueled by grievances against security forces in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Syria.

"We must avoid the mentality of 'security first' at the expense of rights, freedoms and rule of law," the report said.

"This method is the shortest route to the abyss -- the abyss of the police, security regimes which we have seen, and see in live broadcast, in the states around us."

The commission has criticized the Palestinian Authority for complaints including security screening designed to stop supporters of Islamist Hamas from being employed in the PA bureaucracy.

It said torture and arbitrary detention continued in 2010 in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In the West Bank, it said "security considerations have been put in front of all others at the expense of rights and freedoms", listing the security screening process and the role of the security forces in licensing civil society groups.

Hamas and Fatah, the rival group led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, agreed in April on steps to end their four-year-old feud, including the release of political detainees held by each side.

But Mamdouh al-Aker, who heads the commission, said the impact of the unity agreement had yet to be felt. "It's business as usual," he told Reuters. "Nothing has happened on these issues, which are part of the reconciliation," he said.

PA security forces, retrained with Western support, allowed Hamas supporters to hold a small rally in Ramallah on Friday.

Speaking at a briefing to release the report, Aker added: "It is important for there to be civilian oversight over the security apparatus so that they do not exaggerate in their reports to the politicians."

He said there were numerous cases in Arab states and other countries which showed that security forces might exaggerate threats to stability to strengthen their own position.

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