Amnesty International slams PA treatment of demonstrators

Amnesty International slams PA treatment of demonstrators

Rights group cites ‘excessive force’ by police at anti-government rallies, says police act ‘with impunity’

A Palestinian demonstration in Ramallah, July 3, 2012 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
A Palestinian demonstration in Ramallah, July 3, 2012 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Monday blasted the Palestinian Authority for using what it called “unnecessary and excessive force against demonstrators” and demanded that PA officials be held accountable for human rights violations.

In a report, Amnesty detailed “unprovoked and unlawful attacks on peaceful protesters” by police and security personnel, and accused the Palestinian Authority of allowing them to do so with impunity.

“Standards during the policing of demonstrations in the West Bank continue to fall woefully short of those prescribed by international law,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa director of Amnesty International. “As a result, the rights to freedom of expression and assembly are being severely eroded.”

The report documented events during two days of demonstrations held June 30-July 1, 2012 to protest PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s meeting with Israel’s then-vice prime minister Shaul Mofaz.

Mohammad Jaradat, a journalist, told Amnesty that on the first day of protests, when he “was taking pictures of plain-clothes officers violently arresting a demonstrator, I was attacked by four men in civilian clothes… When I yelled for the [uniformed] police to help me, one of [the attackers] said, ‘Shut up, we are the police.’”

The following day, demonstrators continued to protest the Abbas-Mofaz meeting as well as the violence of the previous day.

A 23-year-old woman was cited in the report as saying that she was grabbed and kicked by an officer in civilian clothes, then beaten on the head with a baton by a uniformed policeman.

In the aftermath of the violence that hospitalized five demonstrators, Abbas and Palestinian Interior Minister Abdel-Razak al-Yehiyeh both established investigative committees to examine the conduct of security forces.

According to Amnesty, the PA has since disclosed that it found the force used by police to have been unnecessary, unjustified and disproportionate, but that it has yet to publish a full report of the findings.

Furthermore, the PA has yet to prosecute any of the security officers involved in the violence. “Such impunity inevitably fosters further abuses, as evidenced by further incidents in which PA forces have used excessive force against protesters since mid-2012,” according to Luther.

The report cited four additional incidents since the protests surrounding the Abbas-Mofaz meeting in which security forces violently attacked peaceful demonstrators, including two cases in which Palestinian civilians were killed by police.

On May 8, 2013, Khaleda Kawazbeh died during a raid on the village of Se’ir, near Hebron. The circumstances of his death were “unexplained,” according to the report.

Another man, 37-year-old Amjad Odeh, was shot in the head by PA police at a demonstration in August.

Luther demanded that the Palestinian Authority “call an end to this pattern of abuse by its police and security forces and to break the cycle of impunity which fosters it.”

He further called on Palestinian officials to “ensure that police officers and other members of the security forces who commit unlawful acts against protesters and others are held to account through criminal prosecutions.”

The report noted that the US, the European Union and other donor governments have given money to the PA in order to train police, and called on those governments to hold the PA accountable when human rights violations occur.

“International donors need to make clear to the PA’s leadership that they are not prepared to tolerate continued rights violations by PA police and security forces and that future assistance is dependent on PA leaders’ ensuring full accountability,” Luther said.

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