Geneva - Violations with regards to arbitrary detention during the last year by the Palestinian Security Services in the Palestinian Territories (The West Bank and the Gaza Strip) have been detailed in a new report by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
The report documented 1,189 cases of arbitrary detention in the West Bank and Gaza during 2017, in addition to more than 1,543 cases of summons orders on political grounds or for the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly, and the right to freedom of expression and opinion. Arbitrary arrests continue to occur this year too, and they include torture and maltreatment of detainees, warns the Geneva-based rights organization.
Titled “Silencing Dissent: Arbitrary Detention by the Palestinian Security Services in the Palestinian Territories”, the report indicates that in the West Bank alone, 1,150 cases of arbitrary detention have been recorded, and 1,510 arbitrary summons orders have been issued in 2017. The PA’s Preventive Security Service and the General Intelligence have been the most prominent apparatus carrying out these arrests and summons. Arrests have targeted mainly individuals affiliated with Hamas or those opposing the PA’s policies and practices of high-ranking officials and security services.
In Gaza, however, 39 cases of arbitrary arrest, and another 33 cases of summons have been carried out by Hamas-affiliated security services, especially the Police and the Internal Security Apparatus, which was established by Hamas after the group claimed control of the Strip. These arrests targeted mainly those affiliated with the Fatah movement, the political rival of Hamas.
“Although Palestine has formally acceded to several international conventions on human rights in the last few years, the Palestinian security services in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have never ceased to use their policy of silencing dissent or criticism of the authorities and/or their leadership, exercising outright arbitrary detention,” said Tariq Abdel-Razzaq, a Euro-Med’s legal advisor.
Arbitrary summons and arrests “have never been a guarantee of political stability in the Palestinian society. Rather, this policy has been a root cause for societal tensions and has increased hatred and hostility between supporters of the two parties, who represent the two major political parties in the Palestinian Territories,” added Abdel-Razzaq.
Arbitrary arrests in the West Bank included 47 journalists and human rights activists, 245 university and school students, 28 teachers and academics. Whereas in Gaza, 14 journalists and activists, 10 university and school students, and three teachers and academics have been arrested.
The report points out that the Palestinian security services detain Palestinian citizens without any legal justification and without presenting any clear charges for their arrest. They also rely on broad legal provisions that violate the right to expression and to peaceful assembly.
A previous report covering the same issue has been published by Euro-Med Monitor in early 2016, monitoring the cases of arbitrary detention practiced by the Palestinian security services in 2015. The report was titled, “Strangulation Twice: Oppressive Practices of Palestinian Security Services,” and aimed to draw attention that the continued suffocation of Palestinians is not only Israel’s responsibility, but also is the results of acts by their own divided political rulers.
During last year, 1,510 Palestinian civilians and activists have been summoned across the West Bank for interrogation in response to practicing their freedom of expression and organization or participation in peaceful protests, Euro-Med’s team has documented.
While in Gaza, 33 cases of arbitrary summons have been recorded, all on background of expressing opinion and exercising their right to peaceful assembly.
The year 2017 witnessed an additional setback of the right of expression with arbitrary arrests on the rise as a result of the PA’s adoption of the Cybercrimes Law in June last year. The new law runs contrary to the Palestinian Basic Law, principles of public liberties and human rights. This guarantees individuals’ right to freedom of opinion and expression in its broadest sense, except in cases of necessity and under complex circumstances.
The report has detailed cases of physical, psychological and mental torture, which have been used by the security services in the West Bank and Gaza against political detainees. Methods of torture included beatings, insults, humiliation. Other violations included confiscation of private property belonging to detainees, such as cameras, mobile phones and laptops.
The actions of the security services in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in regard to the arrests of individuals on political grounds or party affiliations, have demonstrated a lack of respect for the principles of international human rights law and the Palestinian laws.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the authorities in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to uphold human rights and to take measures to immediately end such horrible violations aimed at silencing dissent, especially in light of the PA’s accession to a number of international human rights conventions, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture.
Euro-Med Monitor further calls on the security services in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to release all detainees held in their prisons on political grounds and to work to end arbitrary detention in all its forms. Euro-Med Monitor also calls on the international community to work with the Palestinian Authority to stop these practices.
Click here to download the full report