Watchdog accuses Palestinian Authority, Hamas of routinely torturing detainees

UN Watch report to United Nations committee on torture claims cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment in Palestinian custody in West Bank and Gaza Strip is ‘widespread’

Illsutrative: An imprisoned man whose eyes are blindfolded (nito100; iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative: Walid, a Palestinian who was tortured in a Palestinian Authority prison because he worked with the Shin Bet. (Dov Lieber / Times of Israel)

The UN Watch lobby group released a report Thursday accusing the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas terror group of regularly engaging in the torture of detainees.

Human rights activists, women, LGBT persons, political opponents, so-called “collaborators” and Palestinians who sell land to Jews are all subjected to brutal punishment, the Geneva-based pro-Israel group said in a statement.

The “Torturing Palestinians” report was released ahead of a two-day meeting next week of the Untied Nations Committee Against Torture that will examine Palestinian adherence to the UN convention against torture and other cruel punishment.

UN Watch said that its representatives will present the report to the 10-member committee at a private briefing along with other human rights groups on July 18, the day before the Palestinians will be called on to answer questions about their adherence to the UN treaty on torture, which the PA signed in 2014.

The report was also published on the website of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

PA “routine” torture includes beatings, solitary confinement, feet whipping, threats and taunts, and forcing detainees into various painful positions for extended periods, the statement said.

Those accused by the PA or Hamas of “collaborating” with Israel face beatings, cigarettes extinguished on their bodies, having teeth pulled out, being forced into painful positions and having their genitals abused, according to the report.

It noted that in June 2018 an Israeli court ordered the PA to pay $3.5 million in compensation to dozens of suspected collaborators and their family members who were tortured by the PA between 1990 and 2003 for helping Israeli security forces.

The same year, Suha Jbara, a hunger-striking Palestinian-American activist held in PA custody, described to Amnesty International how she was tortured.

LGBTQ persons living in areas under the control of the PA or Hamas are subjected to “severe persecution and ostracism.”

Gay Palestinians say they are coerced into informing on others, forced into marriages and face death threats, according to UN Watch.

A gay Palestinian living in exile in Turkey was quoted in the statement saying, “They arrested me, hanged me from the ceiling, beat me up and interrogated me for five days.”

Another said, “Some have been punished, some have been killed. Others killed themselves.”

Hillel Neuer of UN Watch (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash 90)
Hillel Neuer (Michal Fattal/Flash 90)

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said, “Evidence continues to emerge of widespread torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees held in Palestinian custody in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Neuer called on the Palestinian representative to the UN in Geneva, Ibrahim Khraishi, “to be open about the PA’s routine use of torture at the upcoming review.”

A 67-page response from the PA submitted to the UN “seeks to absolve Palestinian actors of responsibility for complying with the treaty’s prohibitions against torture, and instead points the finger at Israel to deflect attention from the PA’s own record, which is the subject of the UN review,” the UN Watch statement said.

The Palestinian submission “contains no data on the pervasiveness of torture under the PA and Hamas, or on any practical measures implemented to prevent torture by security forces during interrogation,” UN Watch legal adviser Dina Rovner said in the statement.

Earlier this month Human Rights Watch released a report saying Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip systematically torture critics in detention, a practice that could amount to crimes against humanity.

In its report, HRW called for donor countries to cut off funding to Palestinian security forces that commit such crimes and urged the International Criminal Court to investigate.

The two reports come a year after the death of Nizar Banat, an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority, whose family says he died after PA security forces stormed his residence in the middle of the night and beat him with metal batons. His death sparked weeks of protests against the PA, which governs parts of the West Bank. Palestinian security forces violently dispersed some of those protests.

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