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Overview of the Internal Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory - June 2009
REF.: 25.2009E
18، Jun 2009

[English Summary of Original Release in Arabic]

Regrettably, from the beginning of 2009, Al-Haq has ascertained that the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) has gravely deteriorated due to the spreading violations committed by Palestinian actors. In particular, Al-Haq can

specify the following alarming trends:

1. Extra-judicial killings and violation of the right to life and physical integrity:
During the first half of 2009, 33 Palestinians have been extra-judicially killed. Assassinations were allegedly perpetrated by masked individuals or by security officers of the de facto Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. In the Gaza Strip, detainees held under the custody of the de facto Hamas government have been extra-judicially killed. A particularly disturbing pattern has been the murder of detainees sentenced to death. On 27 December 2008, the Israeli air force shelled the security headquarters in Gaza City, allowing the breakout of detainees, some of whom were sentenced to capital punishment. The execution of some of these detainees was indirectly implemented by security officials of the de facto Hamas government; they killed 10 people sentenced to death. These killings represented an unofficial implementation of death sentences without respecting the required formalities, in order to avoid protests and criticism at local and international level.

2. Arbitrary detention on political grounds:
Invoking the Revolutionary Penal Law of 1979 of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in the West Bank, security agencies of the Palestinian Authority (PA) continued to arrest members and supporters of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas); they executed arrest warrants issued by the Palestinian Military Justice Authority. Arbitrary detention violates the Palestinian Basic Law as well as the Law of Penal Procedure No. (3) of 2001.
According to information gathered by Al-Haq, by the end of May 2009, approximately 500 people have been detained by Palestinian security agencies, including the Preventive Security, General Intelligence and Military Intelligence. Likewise, in the Gaza Strip, the Internal Security agency of the de facto Hamas government has been arresting individuals for their alleged affiliation with the Palestine National Liberation Movement (Fatah) in pursuance of military arrest warrants. Currently, dozens of individuals are being illegally arrested in the Gaza Strip.
In the Gaza Strip, the de facto Hamas government has introduced the new offence of ‘collaboration with Ramallah or the Authority’. Allegations of this nature are usually brought against member of Fatah or former PA security officers.

3. Torture and ill-treatment:
According to Al-Haq‘s investigation, in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the number of individuals who have been victim of torture and inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment has dramatically increased. These illegal practices have been adopted not just to coerce detainees into disclosing information but also purely as a form of intimidation and revenge for similar violations committed by the opposing party.
Based on sworn statements collected by Al-Haq, security agencies of both the PA and the de facto Hamas government have used the following torture techniques:

  • Severe beating, kicking, punching and hitting with rifle butts.
  • Shabeh – a combination of methods, used for prolonged periods, entailing sensory isolation, sleep deprivation, and infliction of pain.
  • Forcing detainees to stand for prolonged periods of time against a wall, whilst lifting both hands and one leg.
  • Verbal abuse and defamation.
  • Threat and intimidation.
  • Confining detainees in small and dark cells, measuring approximately one or two metres in width and three metres in length.
  • Overcrowding the cells with an inadequate number of detainees, therefore impeding them to rest.
  • Preventing detainees from washing.
  • Preventing detainees from contacting their lawyers.
  • Banning family visits.
  • Subject detainees to prolonged interrogation.
  • Deliberately exhausting detainees and depriving them of sleep by conducing interrogation late at night.
  • Handcuffing and blindfolding.

4. Secret detention centres in the Gaza Strip
After the Israeli air strike of 27 December 2008, resulting in the destruction of security headquarters and detention facilities in the Gaza, security agencies of the Ministry of Interior of the de facto Hamas government have been holding individuals in secret places in undisclosed locations, even to defence lawyers. In most of the cases, the families of the detainees do not know where their relatives are being kept.
The de facto government is using civilian property as security headquarters, such as the Medical Services Compound in the area of Ansar, the Passports Department in Gaza City, several residential flats, offices of charitable associations and of civil society organisations, and the house of the PA President, Mahmoud ‘Abbas.

5. Violation of the right to freedom of association
The right to establish associations and to manage them free from any political interference is established under Palestinian law; therefore applicable in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The right to freedom of association has been severely violated with the implementation of the following illegal measures:

  • In the West Bank, the PA Ministry of Interior intervened in the elections of board members of associations and forced them to replace any undesired nominees with members of the security sector.
  • PA Ministry of Interior forced targeted associations to allow public membership to their boards.
  • PA security agencies subjected directors and members of boards of targeted associations to interrogation.
  • PA Ministry of Interior imposed a new procedure on new associations, which are now required to obtain the approval from a security agency prior their registration.
  • Officials of the PA Ministry of Interior attended board meetings of targeted associations.
  • PA Ministry of Interior froze accounts of targeted associations in order to pressure them in changing the composition of their board of directors.
    Similar violations and abuse have also been committed by the de facto Hamas government in the Gaza Strip.
    These policies have gravely impacted the right to freedom of association in the OPT.

6. Violation of the right to freedom of movement committed by the de facto Hamas government in the Gaza Strip
Security agencies of the de facto Hamas government prevented civilians, particularly Fatah activists, from leaving the Gaza Strip. In late May 2009, security agencies prevented a delegation of the General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW), including 90 female members, from leaving the Gaza Strip to participate in a GUPW Conference in Ramallah, West Bank. Furthermore, security agencies have been imposing arbitrary house arrest on a large number of individuals.

7. Disregard for judicial decisions
In the West Bank, PA security agencies failed to respect or execute judgements issued by the Palestinian High Court of Justice, particularly those decisions on the release of detainees in the custody of security agencies. Security agencies have adopted a new stratagem to circumvent High Court orders in order to avoid allegations of not enforcing judicial decisions. The latter, mainly regarding the release of detainees, are regularly implemented but followed by a new arrest warrant issued against the same individuals on allegedly different charges.

8. Violations of the right to a fair trial and excessive use of death sentences
Since the beginning of 2009, 13 individuals were sentenced to death in the OPT. These rulings were issued by Palestinian military courts in accordance with the provisions of the PLO Revolutionary Penal Law of 1979. Judgements pronounced by military courts are definitive and not susceptible to appeal. Additionally, the use of military courts for civilian matter inherently violate the right to a fair trial. Civilians cannot be the subject of these courts and alternatively ought to be brought before the ordinary court system.

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