JERUSALEM – An international rights group criticized on Wednesday the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and the Islamist Hamas movement, the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip, for arbitrarily detaining and harassing opponents.
Humans Rights Watch said the PNA acknowledged it had arrested over 1,600 people between January 2018 and March 2019, while Hamas had detained more than 1,000 others during protests in March.
“The Palestinian Authority and Hamas remain bitterly divided, but unified in a common approach to crushing dissent,” HRW deputy Middle East and North Africa director Eric Goldstein said.
“Leaders who have been in power for more than a decade without elections should at the very least listen to criticism, not punish it,” he added.
The watchdog said it had documented arbitrary detentions and torture in the West Bank and Gaza, adding they are often made for offending “higher authorities” and causing “sectarian strife.”
A total of 752 of those arrested by the PNA were detained for their “social media posts,” while 815 others were charged of opposing the authorities.
In Gaza, 24 people were arrested for “insulting others based on social media posts,” 15 for “harming revolutionary unity,” and 27 others for “misuse of technology.”
These figures provided by both factions; however, “significantly underrepresent the actual number of arbitrary arrests,” as HRW has documented many arbitrary detentions with no formal charges.
According to the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), 455 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza complained of “torture and mistreatment” – 242 by the PNA forces and 213 by Hamas.
“Palestinian authorities should abide by the international human rights treaties they acceded to over the last five years, including by credibly investigating wrongdoing and holding wrongdoers accountable,” HRW urged.