Hamas grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, says a new report by Human Rights Watch, which details series of abuses committed by the group in Gaza.
The Human Rights Watch organization is calling on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to pressure Hamas to put an end to violations of human rights and international law in the judicial system and prisons in the Gaza Strip, a territory under Hamas' control.
The appeal is contained in a report that the U.S.-based human rights group released last week. "Hamas grew out of the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood," the organization noted. "Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, whose political arm holds the country's presidency, should pressure Hamas leaders to end the kinds of abuses, including arbitrary detention and torture, that they themselves suffered under former president Hosni Mubarak."
The 43-page report, which is entitled "Abusive System: Criminal Justice in Gaza," details a series of major civil rights violations the group says were committed against suspects and detainees, including arbitrary detention and imprisonment without notifying family members or without any contact with the outside world.
The authorities in Gaza are guilty of using torture to extract confessions, barring prisoners' access to legal counsel and putting civilians on trial in military courts, the organization says. Its report contains details of three cases in which the accused were allegedly executed on the basis of confessions apparently secured through torture, including one person convicted of collaboration with Israel.
Human Rights Watch is calling for an overhaul of the judicial system in the Gaza Strip, and says the courts in the territory do not take allegations of torture sufficiently seriously.
The report was presented at a news conference in Gaza City on Wednesday by its author, Bill Van Esveld, based on interviews conducted last year by local residents of the Strip. The Gaza-based interviewers spoke with six former detainees; six defense attorneys, three of whom were themselves held in detention and allegedly tortured; two relatives of a man who was executed; and a former judge. The organization's report is also based on information from Palestinian human rights groups in Gaza that track the activities of the judiciary and the prison system and publicize information on individual cases of human rights violations.
Execution of prisoners
One major motive for violation of prisoners' rights is the rivalry between Palestinian political groups themselves, the report noted. And when it comes to the West Bank, which is controlled by Hamas' rival Fatah, Human Rights Watch said: "Hamas's rival in the West Bank, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, arrests and detains Palestinians arbitrarily, including Hamas members or sympathizers, and similarly subjects detainees to torture and abuse." According to the report, however, the evidence of false arrest and torture in the Gaza Strip related not only to Fatah members under detention but also to criminal suspects of various kinds.
According to the report, last year the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights recorded 102 complaints of torture by security forces in Gaza, as well as another 112 in the West Bank.
The commission was established by official decree with legal status within the PA as a human rights ombudsman. It technically has oversight responsibilities regarding governmental institutions in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but Hamas, which took over the Strip in 2007, has boycotted the commission on the contention that it is not objective. In the West Bank, the commission operates openly and even works to expose human rights violations there against Hamas supporters, including teachers who were dismissed for their Hamas affiliation.
Last year, the Independent Commission for Human Rights recorded 755 complaints of arbitrary detention in the West Bank and another 271 in the Gaza Strip - a large drop from 2010, when the commission recorded 2,045 complaints in the West Bank and 831 in Gaza.
In response to the Human Rights Watch report, the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in the Gaza Strip called the cases detailed in the report out-of-date and inaccurate, and denied the existence of torture of any kind in the territory's prisons, (although the allegations of torture generally relate to abuse at interrogation centers ). The ministry said there were more than 10 special institutions overseeing interrogators' work and detention procedures. The ministry added that security officials who have exceeded their authority have been dismissed, had their wages docked or have even been arrested.
Among the alleged abuses detailed in the Human Rights Watch report is the case of a lawyer identified as Y. The report says early one morning in April of last year, Y. was arrested at home by 12 police officers who demanded that he come with them, accusing him of faking commercial contracts. They reportedly searched his law office, and then released him, only to rearrest him the next day and drive him to a location in the middle of the Gaza Strip.
"During the drive they cursed and beat me, then they took me to the investigation room. Four men beat me for 10 minutes and called me a nonbeliever, then tied me to a bed. Someone tied knots in a rubber hose and beat me on my feet with it for an hour," Human Rights Watch quoted Y. as saying, adding that bruises on his body were still apparent when he was interviewed by human rights representatives nearly two weeks later. According to the report, at one point during Y.'s custody, he was brought to a hospital where a doctor physically abused him.
With regard to execution of prisoners, the Gaza Interior Ministry said capital punishment is legal in the PA. It should be noted, however, that Palestinian law requires that death sentences be ratified by the president of the PA, a position currently held by Fatah-affiliated Mahmoud Abbas, whose authority in practice is limited to the West Bank as a result of the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. Hamas has not enforced the provision of Palestinian law requiring the president's approval for executions.
In its press release, the Gaza Interior Ministry praised the professionalism of judges in Gaza, all of whom were appointed by Hamas after those appointed before the Hamas takeover were ordered by the PA in the West Bank to resign. For its part, however, the Interior Ministry said the Gaza public's confidence in the judges is higher now that it has been in the past.
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