Palestinian Authority, Hamas 'silence critics' through arbitrary arrest, torture

Palestinian Authority, Hamas 'silence critics' through arbitrary arrest, torture
2 min read
30 May, 2019
Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas continue to 'arbitrarily arrest' opponents and peaceful critics as part of a widespread crackdown on dissent.
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas continue to "arbitrarily arrest" opponents and peaceful critics. [Getty]
Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas continue to "arbitrarily arrest" opponents and peaceful critics as part of a widespread crackdown on dissent, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The PA detained more than 1,600 people in the occupied West Bank between January 2018 and March 2019 for non-violent speech, HRW found.

In Gaza, Hamas authorities arrested more than 1,000 people during March 2019 alone after a rare surge of public dissent against the group's rule.

"The Palestinian Authority and Hamas remain bitterly divided, but unified in a common approach to crushing dissent," said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

"Leaders who have been in power for more than a decade without elections should at the very least listen to criticism, not punish it."

More than six months after an HRW report found evidence of systematic arbitrary arrest and torture by both authorities, no meaningful action has been taken to address institutionalised abuses.

A Palestinian watchdog, the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), said it received more than 450 complaints in the West Bank and Gaza of "torture and mistreatment" in 2018 and the first three months of 2019.

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. 

Torture methods documented by HRW include being beaten by cables and put in stress positions for hours at a time.

"Continued promises to reform and warnings about the fragility of their institutions fool no one when systematic abuse and impunity continue unabated," Goldstein said.

"Governments should not fall for these tired excuses but should cut ties to abusive Palestinian security forces."

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