Rights group hits Palestinian Authority abuses

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — The Palestinian Authority, despite signing international human rights conventions, has failed to hold its security forces accountable for alleged abuses, a leading human rights group said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the PA was refusing to investigate complaints of abuse by security forces in the West Bank. The report cited an assault by PA officers of four protesters in Ramallah in April.

Members of the Palestinian security forces scuffle with demonstrators in the West Bank city of Ramallah.  /Reuters
Members of the Palestinian security forces scuffle with demonstrators in the West Bank city of Ramallah. /Reuters

“Palestine should start living up to its human rights obligations by exonerating the victims and holding the police to account,” HRW deputy Middle East director Joe Stork said.

On April 12, PA police detained four Palestinians at a theater in Ramallah during a performance by an Indian dance troupe. Witnesses said police attacked two of the protesters and arrested another two who tried to stop the assault. All four men, ordered to court on May 28, were charged with disturbing the peace and “provoking a riot.”

“It’s absurd that the Palestinian justice system is prosecuting the victims of police brutality rather than their attackers,” Stork said.

The PA attack came 10 days after the PA joined international human rights conventions that stipulated accountability by security forces. PA police have been trained under a European Union program called EUPOL-COPPS, said to stress respect for human rights.

In a statement on May 20, HRW said the Indian performance was disrupted
by those boycotting Israel. At one point, a 25-year-old boycott activist,
identified as Zeid Shuaibi, urged a walkout to protest the troupe’s earlier
performance in Israel.

After 15 minutes, several men ordered Shuaibi to leave the theater, and
later he was beaten by suspected plainclothes officers. Three of Shuaibi’s
colleagues tried to stop the police and were assaulted as well.

HRW said a woman who tried to stop the police was also beaten. The four
men spent the night in jail after they refused to sign a pledge not to
“participate in disobedience.”

“There was no apparent justification for Palestinian police to violently
repress the protest at the Kasaba theater,” Stork said. “Foreign donors
should make it clear that their support for the Palestinian police will not
continue without accountability for such abuses.”

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