By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
RAMALLAH, West Bank – On August 22, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad reiterated Fatah’s assertion that it did not hold any political prisoners.
The Prime Minister spoke at a ceremony for Protect the Palestinian Flag in Ramallah. Fayyad’s statement contradicted claims by several human rights organizations, which have confirmed that prisons in both the West Bank and Gaza hold prisoners arrested for political reasons. Fatah’s rival party, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has also claimed that several of its members have been detained by Fatah security forces because of political motivations.
Hamas claimed earlier this month that one of its members, Fadi Hamarna, who was imprisoned in Jneid Prison in Nablus in the West Bank, died at the hands of Fatah security forces. The Palestinian government in the West Bank stated that Hamarna had committed suicide in his cell after interrogation.
The Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) attributes many of the abuses within the Palestinian security system to its chaotic power struggles between the nine security forces operating under the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA employs almost 40,000 people, one of the highest ratios of police to citizens in the world. The PA security forces are often characterized as having wide-spread corruption and little systematic regulation. The Gaza Strip, which is smaller than the U.S. state of Rhode Island, has at least twenty-four detention centers, the locations for which were kept secret until April 2009. According to MERIP, search and arrest warrants are rare, and mistreatment of prisoners is the norm rather than the exception.
On August 21, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with the Palestinian interior minister about security issues, focusing on the release of so-called “petty criminals” ahead of the end-of-Ramadan festival, Eid-al-Fitr. President Abbas also noted that the PA had already recently released approximately seventy prisoners, and he encouraged efforts to maintain order within the Palestinian Territories.
For more information, please see:
Ma’an News Agency – Fayyad: PA Has No Political Detainees – 22 August 2009
International Middle East Media Center – Hamas Political Prisoner Dies at a Palestinian Prison – 11 August 2009
Middle East Report – Palestinian Political Prisoners – Fall 1996