Wed, Jul 30, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Palestinians torture rival detainees, say rights organizations

AGENCIES , LONDON

Palestinians detained by Fatah and Hamas, the two main factions in the West Bank and Gaza, face routine abuse and torture, two leading human rights organizations said in reports published this week.

Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian human rights group, said on Monday that more than 1,000 people have been detained by each side within the past year.

An estimated 20 percent to 30 percent of the detainees suffered torture, including severe beatings and being tied up in painful positions, said Al-Haq director Shawan Jabarin, citing sworn statements from 150 detainees. It said mistreatment had led to three deaths in Gaza and one in the West Bank.

Al-Haq blamed Hamas’ Executive Force and the group’s armed wing, the Izz-al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, for most of the abuses in Gaza. It said Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas’ Preventive Security Force and General Intelligence Service were the main culprits in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch makes similar allegations in a 113-page report due out today.

“The use of torture is dramatically up,” said Fred Abrahams, a senior researcher for the group.

The report found detainees in Gaza were held for shorter periods than those in the West Bank, but the abuse was more intense. Human Rights Watch takes particular issue with Western governments for not paying enough attention to systematic abuses by forces under the Palestinian Authority, which they support, and for not conditioning their funding on reforms.

“The international community has pledged US$8 billion to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and that gives them a heavy responsibility to make sure the security forces don’t use torture and respect human rights,” Abrahams said.

A spokesman for Britain’s Department for International Development said: “No British official has witnessed human rights abuses in Palestinian detention facilities, nor have they been directly provided with evidence. However, we take NGO and media reports of violations in Palestinian facilities very seriously. We will raise specific incidents with the Palestinian Authority where appropriate.”

The charges from the human rights groups come as a new wave of arrests swept through the Palestinian territories, with Abbas’ security forces seizing around 75 Hamas supporters in the West Bank city of Nablus.

The detentions follow the arrest by Hamas of nearly 200 Fatah officials and activists in Gaza after a bomb killed five Hamas militants and a girl in Gaza on Friday.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has appealed to the World Bank to help him secure emergency financing to bridge a shortfall in donor funds and pay public workers, Palestinian and European sources said on Tuesday.

Fayyad is seeking a so-called comfort letter from the international lending agency to obtain short-term private bank funding, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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