New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterday published a 43-page report which strongly condemns the criminal justice system administered by Hamas in Gaza.
Hamas, which is classified as a terror group by the European Union and United States, forcibly seized power in Gaza in 2007, violently removing the Fatah faction which dominates the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
The HRW report, which is based on interviews with ex-detainees, prisoners’ families, lawyers, officials and human rights activists, says that Palestinians face serious abuses in the Hamas criminal justice system, including arbitrary arrest, torture and unfair trials. In particular, the report documents the cases of three men who had been executed on the basis of ‘confessions’ obtained through torture.
Summarising the report, HRW’s deputy Middle East director Joe Stork said, “After five years of Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip, its criminal justice reeks of injustice, routinely violates detainees’ rights, and grants impunity to abusive security services.” He then called on Hamas to take action, adding, “The Gaza authorities should stop ignoring the abuse and ensure that the justice system respects Palestinians’ rights.”
In a surprise move, several Hamas officials attended the press conference in Gaza at which the publication of the report was announced. Representatives of the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in the Gaza Strip, quoted in the Jerusalem Post, described the report as “purely political” and claimed it had been written “under the influence of various external parties.”