JERUSALEM, Israel – The watchdog group Human Rights Watch released a report Tuesday accusing the Palestinian Authority's Fatah-affiliated security forces in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip of the widespread use of torture and arbitrary arrests to quash dissent.
Human Rights Watch often censors Israel but rarely does it give any harsh criticism to the Palestinian Authority or Hamas for the way they treat their people.
The report says the systematic use of torture by both factions could amount to a crime against humanity under the convention against torture and called on countries funding Palestinian security forces to suspend their aid.
Omar Shakir, HRW's Israel and Palestine [sic] director, said their findings contradict reports by both Palestinian factions.
"[Palestinian] Preventative Security, in a letter to Human Rights Watch, said that in 2016 and in 2017 it detained 220 Palestinians due to social media posts, 65 university students, and two journalists," Shakir said. "They told us that these arrests were not related to their free expression, but Human Rights Watch's findings contradict these figures. Hamas authorities in Gaza indicated that from January 2016 until today, they've detained 45 people due to social media posts. These numbers do not, I think, speak to the scale which both authorities have gone to shut down dissent."
Both the PA and Hamas denied the report, but Human Rights Watch says it interviewed nearly 150 people as part of its two-year investigation, including family members, attorneys and doctors. Earlier this year, CBN News reported on the PA's systematic torture of its residents.
"Security forces routinely use torture against detainees, in particular forcing them into painful stress positions for hours at a time, including by using cables or ropes to hoist up their arms behind their back, wrenching their shoulders," HRW wrote. "In addition, officers regularly threaten, taunt, and beat detainees. The worst offenders are Hamas' Internal Security in Gaza and, in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority's Intelligence Services, Preventive Security, and the Joint Security Committee, particularly in their detention facilities in Jericho."
HRW said the report's release was meant to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords.