News / Middle East

    HRW Report Details Gaza Prison Abuse, Torture

    A Palestinian inmate stands behind the bars of a Hamas-run jail in Gaza City after prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, July 23, 2012.A Palestinian inmate stands behind the bars of a Hamas-run jail in Gaza City after prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, July 23, 2012.
    A Palestinian inmate stands behind the bars of a Hamas-run jail in Gaza City after prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, July 23, 2012.
    A Palestinian inmate stands behind the bars of a Hamas-run jail in Gaza City after prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, July 23, 2012.
    Selah Hennessy
    The criminal justice system in the Gaza Strip is riddled with problems including arbitrary arrests, torture and unfair trials, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. It says Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls Gaza, has allowed a culture of impunity to spread. Hamas slammed the report as being "politically motivated."

    Human Rights Watch carried out interviews with alleged victims and their families, along with lawyers and judges, and reviewed case files and court judgments. It concluded that Hamas security services are committing a range of serious violations.

    The rights group says people in Gaza often are arrested without a warrant and are subsequently tortured. It says trials are unfair, with civilians being tried by military courts - in violation of international law - and detainees denied access to a lawyer.

    Hamas representatives, who appeared Wednesday at HRW's news conference in Gaza, said the report is riddled with mistakes and is unfair.

    But Human Rights Watch says when complaints are made against Hamas, little is done to investigate abuse, and Hamas authorities have failed to investigate and prosecute abusive security officials.

    Bill Van Esveld from Human Rights Watch spoke to VOA from Gaza. He said witnesses reported abuse by the Internal Security agency, but also by other agencies, including the drugs unit of the civil police force and police detectives.

    “People accused of financial impropriety, people accused of dealing drugs, are being detained by units of the police force and allegedly tortured by them," said Van Esveld. "So this looks increasingly like a problem of impunity, meaning that torture is spreading to different branches of the security service, rather than something that is being orchestrated from on high.”

    Hamas officials say since taking power in 2007 they have disciplined hundreds of members of the security services because of abuse.

    Speaking to the BBC, Hamas’s deputy foreign minister said the Human Rights Watch report is one-sided, but that allegations of abuse are being investigated. Ghazi Hamad said instances of abuse are exceptional.

    “In general I can confirm that there is no torture and we are trying now to follow all the international laws in the jails and in the prisons and everywhere," said Hamad.

    Van Esveld said the evidence collected by Human Rights Watch and other campaign groups tells a different story. The Palestine-based Independent Commission for Human Rights says it received at least 147 complaints of torture in 2011.

    “To say that torture is not happening flies in the face of all the evidence and it's a very negative response. The first step to solving this problem is to acknowledge that it's going on, that it's severe and the culture of impunity needs to be ended,” he said.

    The 43-page report is titled “Abusive System: Criminal Justice in Gaza.”

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    by: Dr Nasrat Hijazi from: Canada
    October 04, 2012 9:47 PM
    I am of Palestinian descent and very glad that some body has the integrity and courage to expose Hamas for what it is: a terrorist unethical organization that is out to enrich its members and abuse the Palestinians hundreds of times worse than Israel or Lebanon ever did. As a Palestinian I advocate that Palestinians have a higher priority to rid themselves of Hamas before they rid themselves of Israeli occupation. Hamas is the worst thing that happended to the Palestinians since refusal of the Partitioning Plan in 1947-1948.

    Hamas leaders have no political, economic or any skills to be members of the GREAT PALESTINIAN people let alone determining the future of all palestinians. Since they believe in Jihad and Martordom and Paradise to follow, some body should give them a speedy trip to their destination so that Palestinians can claim their legitimate place in the human family as civilized tolerant and an assest to the human Race.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora