Palestinians torture detainees with impunity

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip routinely torture critics in detention, a practice that may amount to crimes against humanity, an international rights group said Friday.

Human Rights Watch in its report called on donor countries to cut funding to Palestinian security forces who commit such crimes and urged the International Criminal Court to investigate.

The report alleged that Palestinian security forces “used solitary confinement and beatings, including whipping their feet, and forced detainees into painful stress positions for long periods of time, including raising their arms behind the back with cables or ropes, to punish and intimidate critics and opponents and obtain confessions.

The HRW report comes a year after the death of Nizar Banat, a vocal critic of the Palestinian Authority, whose family says he died after 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 rules parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Palestinian security forces violently dispersed some of these demonstrations.

Amnesty International said last week that the Palestinian Authority had not held its security forces responsible for the deaths. Palestinian authorities arrested 14 officers last summer and are trying them in a military court, but have taken no action against senior commanders.

“More than a year after beating Nizar Banat to death, the Palestinian Authority continues to arrest and torture critics and opponents,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.

“The systematic abuses of the PA and Hamas constitute an essential element of the repression of the Palestinian people.”

The group compiled a list of Palestinians it said had been arbitrarily arrested following Banat’s death.

HRW said the security forces are not held responsible for the alleged torture and that, given their systematic nature over many years, the practice could amount to crimes against humanity.

Palestine is part of the Convention against Torture, which obliges members to work to prevent torture.

The report also describes Israeli mistreatment and torture of Palestinian detainees in the West Bank, saying no charges have been brought against Israeli security forces despite hundreds of complaints being filed over the past 20 years.

Maria R. Newman