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Tuesday, January 25, 2011     GET REAL

Palestinian Authority agencies said still harassing human rights staffers

RAMALLAH — The Palestinian Authority, despite pressure by Western donors, continues to harass and detain members of human rights groups in the West Bank.


Human rights groups said the PA has been arresting staffers as well as other dissidents in the West Bank. They said the main culprits have been the PA's Preventive Security Apparatus (PSA) and General Intelligence Services.

On Jan. 23, the Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organizations reported the arrest of a human rights attorney, Middle East Newsline reported. The council said an attorney for the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, identified as Mazen Abu Aoun, was arrested by PSA on Jan. 10 in Jenin.

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"During the arrest operation, PSA confiscated the confidential legal files of Palestinian prisoners represented by Mr. Abu Aoun on behalf of Addameer, as well as his cell phone," the council said. "PSA also seized further legal files, three computers, a printer and CD-ROMs in a simultaneous raid on his home."

The statement said Abu Aoun was held for 10 hours and subjected to inhumane treatment. The council said the attorney, believed to represent Islamic Jihad detainees, was prevented from contacting his family and made to stand for one hour with his arms above his head and hands against the wall.

"The Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organizations is greatly concerned that Mr. Abu Aoun's arbitrary arrest sets a dangerous precedent in the increasing harassment of human rights organizations by the PSA and constitutes a further obstruction to the work of these organizations to defend Palestinian civil society," the council said.

In mid-January, GIS pledged that the PA would no longer prosecute civilians in security or military courts. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, however, has not confirmed the pledge in a formal decree.

"Although the PSF later apologized to Mr. Abu Aoun and indicated that it would also extend an apology to Addameer, this has yet to happen," the statement said.

In another case, a Hamas journalist said he faces trial for insulting Abbas on his Facebook page. Mamdouh Hamamreh, a staffer at Hamas's Al Quds television, said he was held for more than 50 days in September after his Facebook page showed Abbas standing next to an actor in a popular Syrian soap opera. Hamamreh was scheduled to appear in a PA court in February.

"I censor myself now," Hamamreh said. "I'm careful of what I say."

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