By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
BETHLEHEM, West Bank – Caretaker Prime Minister Salam Fayyad impliedly admitted in a report released on January 3 that forces in the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, had tortured Hamas detainees for the past two years. The Associated Press reported that most of the torture in West Bank prisons had ended by October 2009.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) is predominated by members of the Fatah Party, while the Gaza Strip is ruled by the PA’s rival party—Hamas. In his statement on January 3, Prime Minister Fayyad said that there was a “dramatic change for the better” in West Bank prisons, and that forty-three prison officers had been jailed, fired, or demoted for torturing inmates. Fayyad claimed that torture was never an official policy of the PA, but rather were the product of a “flawed culture of revenge.” According to the Associated Press, some Hamas prisoners were beaten so badly at the hands of PA officers that eight detainees have died in West Bank prisons since 2007. The AP report drew on interviews with both PA officials and Hamas inmates.
There has been long-standing animosity between the two parties, often triggering retaliation and violence between members of the two Palestinian parties; Fayyad’s statement was also the first time that the PA has admitted that Hamas prisoners are arrested on their political affiliation alone. Fayyad’s cabinet issued a supporting statement, expressing its commitment to reforming the PA prison system.
The PA announcement comes as Fatah and Hamas continue to work toward a reconciliation agreement. Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip after a violence coup in 2007, and has been at odds with the PA ever since. In the last months of 2009, Egypt attempted to broker a deal between the two parties, and sources inside the negotiations have said the two sides are close to a deal. Saudi officials are also reportedly involved in reconciliation negotiations. The reported deal would require Palestinian elections be held in June 2010 in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had earlier announced that he would not seek reelection from the June ballot.
For more information, please see:
Jerusalem Post – Hamas: Torture Ends in PA Jails – 4 January 2010
Ma’an News Agency – Fayyad Concedes PA Tortured Hamas Detainees – 4 January 2010
Al Jazeera – Palestinian Reconciliation “Close” – 3 January 2010
Ha’aretz – Fatah to Hamas: Want to Reconcile? Sign Deal – 3 January 2010