by Jonny Paul
Photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters
LONDON – An Arab human rights group based in London accused the Palestinian Authority of inhumane practices and human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in a scathing report published on Friday.
The Arab Organization for Human Rights has put the primary blame for the human rights abuses on PA President Mahmoud Abbas and called on the UN, Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation to take urgent action.
AOHR monitored the practices of the PA’s security agencies from January to July 2012 and used information from victims detained by the PA, their families, eye-witnesses and local NGOs in its report.
It accused the PA of arbitrary actions against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank – including torture, detentions, interrogations and firing people from their jobs.
From June 2007 until the end of 2011, PA security forces detained 13,271 Palestinian citizens and 96 percent were subjected to various methods of torture, the report said. This resulted in the death of six detainees and caused “chronic illness” in others.
Between January and July 2012, PA security agencies detained 572 people and sent summonses to 770 more.
“Among them women and old people, who were often forced to wait from early morning to the evening before being interviewed.
Some were summonsed daily for weeks on end, others were kept under virtual house arrest. The period also witnessed raids against universities, hospitals and houses in order to arrest people wanted for protesting against the Israeli occupation. PA officers confiscated equipment and personal cash, which often went missing after the searches,” the group said.
It also said the PA was guilty of torture and degrading treatment, with 18.7 percent of a sample of 300 former detainees stating that they experienced “severe torture” and 99.7% claiming that they were exposed to degrading treatment.
“With regards to the effect of detention on the lives of the detainees, 60% of those in the study explained that they now suffer from chronic diseases due to torture and the poor conditions in which they were held in detention.
On another level, 60% confirmed that repeated or extensive detention reduced them to a state of acute poverty,” the report stated.
AOHR said also that many experienced harassment and dismissal from their jobs.
“At least 73 people were made unemployed in the period under review, and it is estimated that around 3,200 have faced the same injustice since 2005. Harassment also includes students with security records being unable to find employment, acquire a driving license or open a business,” the group maintained.
The PA’s activities, the NGO said, are routinely carried out in full coordination with Israel. It added, however, that the detentions and summons by the PA surpassed those by Israeli security forces.
PA security agencies have “no concern for the age or gender” of those being detained or summonsed, the report said.
“A significant number of detainees are elderly people aged 60 and above, representing 11.3%; women made up 15.3%. Of the sample, 39.3% are students, 38% of whom confirmed that their studies were interrupted as a result of detention,” the report stated.
It calls on the PA to adhere to international law and conventions, and to declare that a future Palestinian state “must be set up on true bases built on the rights of the Palestinian citizen to life and freedom.”
It accused the PA of not learning vital lessons from the Arab Spring that has taken place in Arab states in the past two years.
“It is staggering that the PA should, in the shadow of the Arab Spring, cultivate its own system of impunity, in total defiance of its people’s demands for freedom and dignity.
They seem to be oblivious of the factors which led to the downfall of the tyrannical regimes across the region.
There is absolutely no justification for its acceptance of becoming a subcontracted security instrument of the Israeli occupation, crushing at every opportunity the legitimate aspirations of their people for freedom and self-determination.”
It also said that the PA has not learned from its experiences with Israel, and called to halt military cooperation with the Jewish state.
“The PA’s human rights violations against the Palestinian people have amplified their suffering under the Israelis and undermined their national [unity] and struggle for self determination.
It is clearly obvious that the PA hasn’t learnt from its experiences with the Israelis. On the contrary, it remains firmly committed to its campaign of detention and destroying national solidarity while serving foreign agendas which strike the Palestinian national freedom project at its core,” the report stated in its conclusion.
“AOHR places complete responsibility for these human rights violations on the Palestinian President Abbas... AOHR calls for the secretary-generals of the UN, Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to put pressure in Mahmoud Abbas to stop political detention as it harms the interests of all Palestinians.”
Based in North West London, the AOHR in the UK was founded in 1993. Its website, which is in Arabic, said it was set up “to defend human rights in general and the Arab human rights in particular, and to publish the whole truth no matter how painful.”
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