Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Gaza: Arbitrary Arrests, Torture, Unfair Trials

(Gaza City) – Palestinians face serious abuses in the Hamas criminal justice system, including arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, torture, and unfair trials. Since it took control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas has executed at least three men convicted on the basis of “confessions” apparently obtained under torture.

The military court in northern Gaza City.
© 2012 Bill van Esveld/Human Rights Watch
The 43-page report, “Abusive System: Criminal Justice in Gaza,” documents extensive violations by Hamas security services, including warrantless arrests, failure to inform families promptly of detainees’ whereabouts, and subjecting detainees to torture. It also documents violations of detainees’ rights by prosecutors and courts. Military courts frequently try civilians, in violation of international law. Prosecutors often deny detainees access to a lawyer, and courts have failed to uphold detainees’ due process rights in cases of warrantless arrest and abusive interrogations, Human Rights Watch found.

“After five years of Hamas rule in Gaza, its criminal justice system reeks of injustice, routinely violates detainees’ rights, and grants impunity to abusive security services,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Hamas should stop the kinds of abuses that Egyptians, Syrians, and others in the region have risked their lives to bring to an end.”

The Hamas authorities have failed to investigate and prosecute abusive security officials, and have in practice granted impunity from prosecution to officials in the Internal Security service in particular, Human Rights Watch said.

Hamas should urgently reform Gaza’s criminal justice system to end arbitrary arrests, ensure that detainees have prompt access to lawyers, end prosecutions of civilians in military courts, and hold accountable security officials who commit violations, Human Rights Watch said. The executions of people whose confessions were obtained under torture is a clear signal that authorities should immediately impose a moratorium on, if not abolish, the death penalty. Hamas authorities should also promptly, impartially, and thoroughly investigate all credible allegations of abuse in detention. More