Palestinian authorities 'systematically mistreating and torturing' detainees: Human Rights Watch

Palestinian authorities 'systematically mistreating and torturing' detainees: Human Rights Watch
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Palestinian authorities are 'systematically mistreating and torturing Palestinians in detention, including critics and opponents,' according to a new report published by Human Rights Watch on Thursday.
Nizar Banat, an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority, died in custody last year after dozens of security forces stormed his home in Hebron to arrest him [source: Getty]

Palestinian authorities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip systematically torture critics in detention, a practice that could amount to crimes against humanity, an international rights group said on Friday.

Human Rights Watch called in its report for donor countries to cut off funding to Palestinian security forces that commit such crimes and urged the International Criminal Court to investigate.

The report alleged that Palestinian security forces "use solitary confinement and beatings, including whipping their feet, and force detainees into painful stress positions for prolonged periods, including hoisting their arms behind their backs with cables or rope, to punish and intimidate critics and opponents and elicit confessions".

Israel has also systematically used torture and detention without trial against Palestinians, human rights groups have said.

Israeli right  group B'Tselem recently reported that two Palestinian teenagers were "interrogated under torture for 42 days". Their treatment by an Israeli Security Agency included "being kept sitting on small chairs and handcuffed to them for more than 24 hours, being denied access to the bathroom, as well as food and drink, being kept in a small cell, where they could neither stand up straight nor lie down and being deprived of continuous sleep".

HRW's report comes a year after the death of Nizar Banat, an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority, whose family says he died after security forces stormed his residence in the middle of the night and beat him with metal batons.

His death sparked weeks of protests against the PA, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Palestinian security forces violently dispersed some of those protests.

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Amnesty International said last week that the Palestinian Authority has failed to hold its security forces accountable for the death.

Palestinian authorities arrested 14 officers last summer and are trying them in a military court, but have taken no action against top commanders.

"More than a year after beating to death Nizar Banat, the Palestinian Authority continues to arrest and torture critics and opponents," said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.

"Systematic abuse by the PA and Hamas forms a critical part of the repression of the Palestinian people."

The group listed Palestinians who it said had been arbitrarily arrested in the aftermath of Banat's death.

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Palestine is part of the Convention Against Torture, which requires members to work to prevent torture.