Palestinian security forces accused of torture

Mistreatment may amount to crimes against humanity, report states

Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Gaza systematically detain, abuse and torture critics and opponents, Human Rights Watch and Palestinian Lawyers for Justice have stated in a joint report submitted to the UN Committee against Torture in advance of its meeting on July 12th-29th. Mistreatment over many years by both the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Hamas administration may amount to crimes against humanity, the report said.

Palestine and Israel Human Rights Watch director Omar Shakir stated: “Systematic abuse by the PA and Hamas forms a critical part of the repression of the Palestinian people.”

The report accuses the PA, a signatory of the Convention against Torture, of failing to hold to account security agents who last year beat to death prominent critic Nizar Binat while in custody, and cracking down violently on and arresting peaceful protesters demanding justice. The report quotes Palestinians who were detained and abused.

The report said 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 elicit confessions”. Journalists and students are among those targeted, it said.


“In 2021 the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights received 252 complaints of torture and ill-treatment and 279 of arbitrary arrest against PA authorities in the West Bank and 193 complaints of torture and ill-treatment and 97 of arbitrary arrest against Hamas authorities in Gaza. Hamas authorities have also executed 28 people in Gaza since seizing political control in June 2007″ while Hamas “summarily executed scores of other people without any judicial process, often on accusations of collaboration with Israel”, the report said.

The Israeli authorities have also “mistreated and tortured Palestinians”, it stated, citing the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel as saying, “more than 1,300 complaints of torture [stemming] from acts carried out in Israel or in the occupied West Bank, have been filed with Israel’s Justice Ministry since 2001″ but only two have resulted in criminal investigations and none in indictments. Children arrested in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank are abused, according to Human Rights Watch.

The report pointed out that the Israeli army and PA security forces engage “in close co-ordination” irrespective of abuses carried out by Israeli forces. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said in 2014 that co-ordination was “sacred” despite differences on policies.

Senior US military officers have headed security co-ordination efforts since 2005. Reuters reports PA and Hamas officials have rejected the allegations. “We can arrange for human rights organisations to visit any facility that allegedly practices torture and to speak with detainees there,” PA security spokesman Talal Dweikat stated, adding that he regularly checked with security forces to ensure regulations are observed. Hamas interior ministry spokesman Eyad Al-Bozom said Hamas did not detain people on political charges and that the ministry “continuously takes the necessary measures to ban torture at its headquarters and detention centres”.

PA, Hamas and Israeli representatives have not responded to requests from The Irish Times for comment.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times