A new report by Human Rights Watch finds both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza guilty of making widespread use of arbitrary arrests and torture to quell criticism and political opposition.
The report, titled “Two Authorities, One Way, Zero Dissent,” is the result of two years of investigation. It draws on 86 case studies and 147 interviews, mostly with ex-detainees.
“Twenty five years after Oslo, Palestinian authorities have gained only limited power in the West Bank and Gaza, but yet, where they have autonomy, they have developed parallel police states,” said Tom Porteous, a Human Rights Watch representative.
“Calls by Palestinian officials to safeguard Palestinian rights ring hollow as they crush dissent.”
The arbitrary arrests are mainly aimed at those who criticize the authorities or express support for political opposition on social media, in journalism and on university campuses. According to Human Rights Watch, the authorities often justify the arrests on the basis of vague laws that criminalize activities as “causing sectarian strife” or “insulting higher authorities.”
The report gives many examples of individual cases of abuse. One man, previously jailed by Israel, was subsequently detained 15 times by the PA’s security forces for belonging to the Hamas bloc when in prison.
Another example is the 15-day detention of a journalist in Gaza who wrote on Facebook, “I wonder if the children of our leaders sleep on the floor like ours do.” He was charged with the “misuse of technology” and called “a source of sedition.”