May 15, 2004.
ARAB prisoners beaten and tortured, innocent bystanders killed by gunfire –
another damning human rights report.
But the difference this time is that the violence is being perpetrated not
by coalition forces in Iraq, but by the Palestinian Authority, and the victims are
its own people.
The report, partly funded by the Finnish government, claims Palestinian cities
are in a state of near anarchy, with people on the payroll of Yasser Arafat’s
Palestinian Authority (PA) blamed for 90 per cent of gangland violence.
It highlights numerous incidents of torture of prisoners and refers to the
killing of civilians in gunbattles between Palestinian factions.
It is another blow for Mr Arafat’s organisation, which was recently accused of
misusing GBP 134 million of European Union funds. Mr Arafat was accused of
signing cheques to people linked with terrorist activity.
The organisation behind the latest report, the Palestinian Human Rights
Monitoring Group (PHRMG), has won few friends for its work documenting
human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and
Although it has been strongly critical of Israeli treatment of Palestinians,
its criticism of the PA has seen its funding by European governments slashed.
Its latest report describes the situation in PA areas as “the Intra-fada” or “the
chaos of the weapons”, and paints a picture of a society where the proliferation
of guns has brought grave consequences for the people.
It says: “PA security forces do not live up to international laws and
regulations concerning the treatment of individuals under arrest.
“There have been several cases in which Palestinian civilians were
arrested without proper reason, and suffered beatings and other forms of
torture at the hands of the police.”
It cites an incident in July last year in which a worker from Bethlehem was
forcibly taken from his house and interrogated by members of the al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigade, working with the PA, who accused him of collaborating with
“Under threat of violence [including firing at his feet] the man confessed
to having committed certain thefts, but insisted that he was not responsible for
Israeli assassinations of Palestinians in Bethlehem.
“When he finished his ‘confession’, the militants broke his hand and leg,
smashed his teeth and hit him with an iron bar on his back. He was then
dumped into a garbage container where he was found the next day.”
The report says the examples quoted are the tip of the iceberg. “Violence
permeates the security forces, and it is worsened by legal confusions. Unless
and until more accountability and order is introduced, the problem will remain
and could worsen as PA control continues to deteriorate,” it says.
Just as the Red Cross and Amnesty investigators focused on cases in Iraq
where civilians had been caught in gunbattles, the PHRMG identifies incidents
in PA-controlled areas in which innocent bystanders have been struck by
“Sometimes violence erupts between police members and loyalists of
political factions,” it says.
The report does lay some of the blame for the violence at the feet of Israel. It
says that the failure to reach a substantive and acceptable peace agreement
has led Palestinians to vent their feelings of futility against Palestinians.
According to the US-based Middle East Media Research Institute, Basem Eid,
the man who set up the PHRMG after years investigating Israeli human rights
abuses, has struggled to find funding because his former backers were
concerned about the political implications of being seen to support a group that
exposes Palestinian abuses.
Yesterday, MEMRI’s director, Yigal Carmon, said that as soon as Basem Eid
decided to investigate Palestinian abuses as well as Israeli abuses, his support