Gather ’round, lovers of freedom and democracy, it turns out the country you’ve been haranguing and boycotting and cursing because of its repression of Arabs, is a shining beacon of decency and respect for Arabs’ human rights. According to Human Rights Watch, it is the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria and the Hamas authorities in Gaza which routinely arrest and torture peaceful critics and opponents—Arabs every last one of them.
Human Rights Watch on Tuesday released a 149-page report, “‘Two Authorities, One Way, Zero Dissent:’ Arbitrary Arrest and Torture Under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas,” evaluating patterns of arrest and detention conditions in the PA and the 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 Arabs detained for no clear reason beyond writing a critical article or Facebook post or belonging to the wrong student group or political movement.
“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 crush dissent.”
Human Rights Watch interviewed 147 witnesses, including former detainees and their relatives, lawyers, and representatives of NGOs, 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.
Systematic arbitrary arrests and torture violate major human rights treaties to which the PLO has recently acceded—as a means of attacking Israel abroad, in violation of the Oslo accords. 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 European Union, the United States, and other governments that financially support the Palestinian Authority and Hamas should suspend aid to the specific units or agencies implicated in widespread arbitrary arrests and torture until the authorities curb those practices and hold those responsible for abuse accountable,” the report recommends.
According to the HRW’s report, the “Palestinian 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.”
“The systematic practice of torture by Palestinian authorities may amount to a crime against humanity prosecutable at the International Criminal Court (ICC),” the HRW report asserted.