The Rome-based International Federation for Rights and Development last week condemned the Palestinian Authority for its crackdown on political opponents and said the detainees were being subjected to systematic physical and psychological torture in Palestinian prisons. (Image source: iStock. Image is illustrative and does not represent any person in the article.)
The mother and wife of a Palestinian man being held without trial in a Palestinian Authority (PA) prison in the West Bank have gone on hunger strike as part of a campaign to secure his release. Four days after they began their hunger strike, the two women were rushed to hospital for medical treatment. The women say they will not end their hunger strike unless the PA releases Abdel Rahman Shaheen, who was detained in early January.
The mother of another Palestinian being held in PA prison, Murad Fattash, has also gone on a hunger strike to protest the continued incarceration of her son, who was also detained by the PA in early January.
Palestinians say that Shaheen and Fattash are among dozens of "political detainees" who are being held in PA prisons and detention centers in various parts of the West Bank.
Most of the detainees were taken into custody for criticizing the PA and its leaders and policies. They include engineers, lawyers, university lecturers and students, journalists and political activists affiliated with opposition groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the PLO's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
According to some human rights organizations, the Palestinians held in PA prisons are often subjected to various forms of torture.
In a letter to Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a number of Palestinian human rights organizations recently demanded that the international agency speak out against the politically motivated arrests by the PA in the West Bank.
"We wish to express our deep concern and condemnation over the increased arrest campaigns carried out by the PA security forces against residents because of their opinions and political affiliations," the organizations said in their letter. They also expressed deep concern over the "systematic torture" of Palestinians in PA prisons.
It is highly unlikely, however, that the human rights organizations will receive any reply from the UN, whose various agencies continue to be obsessed only with Israel.
Take, for example, the UN Human Rights Council, which in the last 12 years passed 76 (out of 311) resolutions dealing with Israel. Only 27 resolutions dealt with Syria, 20 with Myanmar, and 18 with Sudan. Other countries received even less attention. Iran, for example, has only been censured eight times.
The UN does not seem to care about human rights violations committed by the PA against its own people. These are the type of stories that evidently do not interest the UN or the international media because they lack an anti-Israel angle. The only "abuses" they see are those that can be blamed on Israel.
Palestinian sources said that at least 94 Palestinians were arrested or "kidnapped" by the PA in recent weeks. Their "crime": Expressing views that are critical of the PA or being affiliated with Palestinian opposition groups. The voices of the women who are on a hunger strike will never reach the UN or any of its human rights agencies.
The Rome-based International Federation for Rights and Development (IFRD) last week condemned the PA for its crackdown on political opponents and said the detainees were being subjected to systematic physical and psychological torture in Palestinian prisons.
The IFRD said it has received testimony from the father of Bader Takatka, a university student from the West Bank city of Tulkarem who was detained by the PA security forces earlier this month. According to the father, his son has been accused of "fomenting internal strife" among Palestinians -- a euphemism used against Palestinians who criticize the PA or its leaders. The father said that he has since been prevented from visiting his son in prison.
The IFRD quoted a lawyer for two other "political detainees," Qutaiba Azem and Muntaser al-Nashar, as saying that the two men have also been subjected to physical torture in Palestinian prison. They too are accused of "fomenting internal strife" among Palestinians, according to the organization. Last week, the PA security forces arrested a journalist , Yusef al-Faqeeh, of Hebron, on the same charge.
"Practices of torture against political detainees are tantamount to crimes against humanity that could be brought before the International Criminal Court," the IFRD warned. "Arbitrary arrests and systematic torture by the Palestinian Authority's security forces are in violation of the most important international human rights conventions, which the Palestinians recently joined as members."
Some of these detainees have also gone on a hunger strike to protest their incarceration without trial. Mujahed Ashour, a student at An-Najah University in the West Bank city of Nablus, has been on a hunger strike for the past two weeks. He is being held without trial in the Palestinians' notorious Jericho Prison.
The families of the detainees have formed a special committee to follow up on the cases of their sons. Later this week, the committee is planning to hold a sit-in strike in the center of the West Bank city of Ramallah to demand the release of their sons. As in the past, the activities of this committee are unlikely to gain the attention of the international community because the detainees are not being held by Israel, but by Mahmoud Abbas's PA security forces.
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah can sit pretty, all the same, despite their continued assault on public freedoms. The mainstream media in the West has shown itself to be wholly indifferent to the torture taking place inside Palestinian prisons. Revealingly, however, the daily complaints made by Abbas and his staff about the conditions of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons for security-related offenses do seem to garner the attention of the international community and media.
The PA's crackdown on public freedoms in the West Bank is a generous gift to Hamas and other Palestinian extremist groups. They are using it to discredit Abbas and depict him as a traitor and dictator. The growing discontent among Palestinians toward these human rights violations plays into the hands of Abbas's rivals in Hamas. Abbas recently stated that he hopes to hold a free and democratic election within the next six months. It is difficult to picture such an election, nevertheless, with Abbas throwing his political opponents into prison and subjecting them to various forms of torture.
What is happening in the PA-controlled territories and prisons in the West Bank is a tiny taste of what life for the Palestinians would be like under a totalitarian regime that does not tolerate any form of criticism. Of course, the situation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip is no better. In both the PA-controlled territories and Gaza, Palestinians must resort to the desperate measure of closing their mouths to food because they cannot open their mouths to demand decent treatment.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.