Hamas and PA torture of jailed Palestinians is 'crime against humanity' - HRW

Torture and mistreatment of Palestinians by the PA and Hamas may amount to crimes against humanity, HRW and Lawyers for Justice said.

 PALESTINIAN POLICEMEN face off against demonstrators in Ramallah in June, during protests following the death of Nizar Banat, a critic of the Palestinian Authority.  (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
PALESTINIAN POLICEMEN face off against demonstrators in Ramallah in June, during protests following the death of Nizar Banat, a critic of the Palestinian Authority.
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas terror organization in Gaza are systematically mistreating and torturing Palestinians in detention, Human Rights Watch and Palestinian rights group Lawyers for Justice found in a joint report.

The report, which was submitted to the United Nations' Committee Against Torture, found that abuse of jailed critics and opponents by Palestinian authorities "may amount to crimes against humanity" due to its systematic nature.

Crimes against humanity

The report accused Palestinian police in the West Bank of "violently dispersing popular protests demanding justice and rounded up scores of people for peacefully protesting." It cited a Palestinian man who claimed a PA officer in civilian clothes arrested him while he was on his way to a protest.

More testimonies gathered accuse authority officers of arresting protesters at their homes, detaining Palestinians for planning protests and blocking protests from taking place.

Hamas security forces were accused of "routinely taunting and threatening detainees" and of exercising the use of solitary confinement and various forms of beatings, such as whipping detainees' feet, forcing them into painful positions for prolonged periods and hoisting their arms behind their backs with cables or rope.

 HAMAS SUPPORTERS attend a protest to support Al-Aqsa mosque, in Gaza, last month.  (credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS) HAMAS SUPPORTERS attend a protest to support Al-Aqsa mosque, in Gaza, last month. (credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)

Killing of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat

HRW and Lawyers for Justice also noted that no one was held accountable for the killing of leading anti-corruption activist Nizar Banat last year.

Banat, 44, a longtime critic of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, died during a raid by PA security officers on his home in the town of Dura.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh on Thursday ordered the formation of a special commission of inquiry to investigate the death. However, the commission's report was not made publically available.

 Palestinian demonstrators attend an anti-Palestinian Authority protest, forty days after the death of Nizar Banat, a critic of the Palestinian Authority, Ramallah in the West Bank August 2, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN) Palestinian demonstrators attend an anti-Palestinian Authority protest, forty days after the death of Nizar Banat, a critic of the Palestinian Authority, Ramallah in the West Bank August 2, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

14 Palestinian Authority security officers were arrested and indicted in a PA military court. The officers were released by the PA last week, with the Palestinian Independent Commission For Human Rights (ICHR) saying that the decision to release the officers was issued by the PA military prosecutor due to the health conditions arising from the spread of COVID-19.

"More than a year after beating to death Nizar Banat, the Palestinian Authority continues to arrest and torture critics and opponents," HRW's Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir said. "Systematic abuse by the PA and Hamas forms a critical part of the repression of the Palestinian people."

Repression of the Palestinian people 

In 2021, the ICHR received 252 complaints of torture and ill-treatment and 279 of arbitrary arrest against PA authorities in the West Bank and 193 complaints of torture and ill-treatment and 97 of arbitrary arrest against Hamas authorities in Gaza.

Hamas has executed 28 Palestinians since seizing control in the Gaza Strip, many without prior judicial process, usually on accusations of collaboration with Israel.