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Tuesday, April 6, 2010    

Report blames U.S. 'interference' for decline in Palestinian rights

CAIRO — An Arab study which cited U.S. "interference," has reported a significant decline in human rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.   

The Arab Reform Initiative issued a report that placed the Palestinian Authority seventh out of Arab League members regarding human rights. The report, titled "The State of Reform in the Arab World," cited the drop in such indicators as respect for law, democracy and accountability between 2008 and 2009.

"Palestine ranked seventh in the general index, and was the country that recorded the second largest drop in its score in the general index compared to 2008," the report, released on March 29, said.

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The report said PA security forces were hampered by several factors, including "increased outside interference." The Arab Reform Initiative said the PA forces were seeing an increase in funding, training, equipment and intelligence, particularly by the United States.

"On the negative side however, the other PA security agencies — intelligence and preventive security — resorted to arbitrary detentions and mistreatment of detainees including torture with the full knowledge of and alleged encouragements from foreign intelligence agencies such as the CIA," the report said.

"It can thus be said that the outside players had a negative impact on the democratization of the security sector, because their priority was efficiency — mainly defined by Israel’s security needs — rather than security sector reform of the kind that is implemented in other countries as part of democracy promotion schemes."

The report also reported a sharp decline in the PA's tolerance of dissent. The PA was said to have resumed trials of civilians in military courts amid the conflict with Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007. The Hamas regime was not cited in the study for lack of information.

"There is a noticeable drop in the scores of Palestine and Yemen, which are both undergoing a period of internal strife...," the report said.

In all, the PA dropped from No. 3 to No. 7 on the human rights list in the space of one year, the report said. The report cited what it termed arbitrary detentions, ill treatment of detainees and accountability. The PA scored zero in government accountability.

"...The indicator for the obstruction of the work of the parliament was suspended for a second year in a row due to the fact that the Legislative Council did not meet," the report said.

The report said the PA, despite praise for the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayad, dropped from fourth to ninth in the index on democratic values. The report cited the absence of a law on political parties, a new requirement for the licensing of electronic media and the failure to hold municipal elections.

The survey ranked Jordan as having the highest index for democracy and human rights. Saudi Arabia was at the bottom of the list, after Syria and Yemen.

Others in the survey for 2009 were Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait and Morocco. The 2008 survey contained only eight countries.

"The report found that genuine change requires transformation in three areas: laws and an electoral process that integrate all sectors of society and eliminate discrimination; the development of tax systems based on progressive taxation and a just distribution of wealth; the development of an education system with firm moral and social foundations and based on the principles of pluralism and secularism," the Arab Reform Initiative said.

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