West Bank prison abuse down

2010-04-07 22:13

Ramallah - The Palestinian Authority's treatment of West Bank detainees has improved but rights violations remain rampant across the Palestinian territories, a rights group said on Wednesday.

The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) noted "positive developments" in the treatment of detainees by the Palestinian Authority in the final quarter of 2009.

"There has been a reduction in the number of complaints related to mistreatment and torture of detainees held by the different security services," it said in the annual report.

"But it is too early to conclude that this phenomenon has ended," it added.

However, the group accused the Western-backed Palestinian Authority of arbitrary detention and said most of those locked up in the West Bank are affiliated with the rival Hamas movement.

It also accused the Hamas-run government in Gaza of using "repressive measures" against detainees.

"Despite the (Hamas) government's denial of the existence of 'political prisoners' ... most of those detained by internal security are affiliated with the Fatah movement or are members of the (former) security services," it said.

Military trials

The ICHR was referring to forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who heads the secular Fatah party that was ousted from Gaza in bloody street fighting with Hamas in 2007.

In both the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank the ICHR faulted Palestinian authorities for limiting freedom of expression and peaceful gatherings.

It criticised the use of military instead of civilian trials, especially in Gaza where the Islamist movement Hamas has said it will carry out executions, and unfair restrictions on family visits and contacts with lawyers.

On March 24, Hamas said it would soon begin executing people convicted of spying for Israel.

Palestinian law says the president must approve all execution orders, but Hamas no longer recognises the legitimacy of Abbas, whose four-year term ended in 2009.

Amnesty International said last week that "Hamas must not start carrying out executions. That would be a profoundly retrograde step and go against the emerging trend towards a worldwide moratorium on executions.

"It would be especially abhorrent to execute prisoners who, as in these cases, were sentenced to death after proceedings which failed to meet international fair trial standards," Amnesty added.