Palestinian critics are regularly beaten, tortured and detained for long periods without trial by each of the rival Palestinian governments in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday.
Both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza have leaned on sweeping laws designed to silence criticism to target each other’s supporters as well as other civil society activists, the report claimed based on interviews with 147 victims and witnesses to violence and detention.
“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,” the rights watchdog’s deputy programme director Tom Porteous said in a statement.
The report highlighted the PA’s infamous Jericho detention facilities where detainees were forced into stress positions, hung from the ceiling, whipped on their feet and threatened by interrogators.
The report gave as an example the 2017 arrest of Abdel Basset Basoom, a former member of the now-defunct PA security forces in Gaza, because he was involved in protests against electricity shortages in the blockaded enclave.
According to Human Rights Watch, both PA and Hamas argue abuses against detainees are isolated cases.
PA treatment of prisoners was highlighted when Ahmed Izz Halaweh – a Nablus-area leader of Fatah’s military but hostile to the PA – was beaten to death in custody, prompting armed clashes with PA security forces in Nablus’ Balata refugee camp.
Halaweh was accused of masterminding the killing of two PA police officers during a raid in the Old City of Nablus.
Prominent Palestinian activist Basel al-Araj was killed by Israeli forces in 2017 during an alleged shootout in the West Bank administrative capital of Ramallah.
Araj had previously been noted as for his peaceful activism, in particular in borrowing from American civil rights activists the tactic of boarding settler-only buses in the West Bank, before he was arrested by PA forces.
Araj and five other detained Palestinians went on hunger strike while in PA detention, where they claimed they were tortured, and were eventually released but went into hiding for fear he would be immediately rearrested by Israeli forces.[Source: Middle East Eye]