A report issued by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) this week criticized the Palestinian Authority [PA] and Hamas for assaults on human rights and freedoms in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The report, which has been ignored by mainstream media and human rights organizations in the West, reveals that 10 Palestinians died in January 2014 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of anarchy, lawlessness and misuse of weapons.
The report also lists cases of torture and mistreatment in PA and Hamas prisons. ICHR pointed to an increase in the number of torture cases in prisons belonging to the PA's much-feared Preventive Security Service in the West Bank.
During January, ICHR wrote that it received 56 complaints about torture and mistreatment in Palestinian prisons: 36 in the Gaza Strip and 19 in the West Bank. In addition, the human rights organization received innumerable complaints about arbitrary and unlawful arrests of Palestinians by the PA and Hamas.
A Palestinian Authority policeman attacks protestors. (Image source: "Palestinians for Dignity" Facebook Page)
ICHR wrote that it also received complaints from Palestinians who accused the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank of unlawfully seizing their money.
The organization also received complaints about assaults on freedom of expression and the media, as well as on peaceful protests and academic freedoms.
Of the 10 Palestinians who died during January, the report found that half of them died as a result of violent disputes between clans. One Palestinian was killed while working in a smuggling tunnel along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Three Palestinians died in what the organization describes as cases of "security anarchy and misuse of weapons." In the Gaza Strip, the report said, a 13-year-old girl named Wisam Ashour committed suicide by hanging herself in her family home.
With regards to torture, the organization stated that it received complaints from Palestinians who said they had been tortured while in detention in Palestinian Authority and Hamas prisons.
ICHR related that it received 85 complaints during January concerning unlawful and arbitrary arrests by the two Palestinian governments. Many detainees said they were taken into custody for "politically-motivated" offenses.
As for assaults on freedom of expression and peaceful protests, the human rights organization pointed out that on January 12, 2014, PA policemen used force to break up a protest by Palestinian youths north of Ramallah. Between 60-70 protesters, the report continued, were wounded in the head and legs after policemen attacked them with clubs and stun grenades.
On January 28, 2014, Palestinian Authority policemen used live ammunition to disperse stone-throwers in the center of Ramallah, according to the report. It also stated that there was no reason for the use of live ammunition during the incident. Four protesters were wounded, the report documented, when policemen attacked them with clubs.
During the last week of January, the report noted, Hamas security forces raided two university campuses in the Gaza Strip and used excessive force to disperse student protests against high tuition.
In the West Bank, the Preventive Security Service summoned for interrogation a number of students suspected of involvement in political activities, and, the report revealed, a University in Jericho expelled a student on suspicion that his brother and cousin belonged to Hamas.
Referring to anarchy and lawlessness in the West Bank, the human rights organization pointed to an incident that took place near Hebron on January 18. On that day, more than 100 men attacked the building of the Yatta Municipality, using a bulldozer to force their way inside.
Mayor Musa Makhamarah said the assailants were relatives and friends of a municipal council who had been dismissed from his job. The mayor complained that although he had warned the Palestinian Authority police in advance about the possibility of such an attack, no police reinforcements were dispatched to the scene.
The report found that the Palestinian Authority was continuing to ignore court rulings. The Preventive Security Service and the General Intelligence Force regularly ignore orders issued by various courts to release Palestinian detainees, it pointed out, listing seven cases that occurred last month.
Earlier last week, representatives of ICHR met with PA Interior Minister Said Abu Ali and discussed with him cases of torture and human rights violations in the West Bank. They also discussed the continued security crackdown on Palestinian students at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank. Many students have complained that they were being targeted for "political reasons" by various branches of the Palestinian security establishment.
The report's findings once again show that neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas respect human rights and freedom of expression in the territories under their control.
That Hamas is responsible for human rights violations and assaults on freedom of expression should not come as a surprise to anyone.
But what is surprising is that the Palestinian Authority leadership, which often boasts that Palestinians living under its jurisdiction enjoy freedom of expression and democracy, is continuing to lie not only to its constituents, but also to the Western media and international donors about its human rights record.
The PA has been successful in diverting attention from these problems by putting all the blame on Israel. As far as the PA is concerned, Israel alone is responsible for human rights violations and assaults on freedom of expression and the media.
Evidently, most Western journalists, governments and human rights groups have chosen to endorse the Palestinian Authority's stance that the only evil-doers are the Israelis. And that is precisely why the ICHR report about the anarchy, lawlessness and human rights violations by the PA and Hamas will be completely ignored in the West.