HRW calls on Hamas to end internal violence in Gaza

Hamas authorities should end the systematic detention, torture, and execution of political opponents and suspected Israeli collaborators in the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report issued April 20. HRW said at least 32 Palestinians have been killed and several dozen more maimed in a wave of violent persecution since the start of the recent Israeli military offensive in December.

The report found that Hamas has continued the wave of repression even since the Israeli withdrawal, leading to 14 deaths and other human rights violations since January:

Of particular concern is the widespread practice of maiming people by shooting them in the legs, which Hamas first used in June 2007, when it seized control inside Gaza from Fatah. According to the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), the human rights ombudsman organization of the Palestinian Authority, unidentified gunmen in masks deliberately inflicted bullet wounds to the legs of at least 49 people between December 28, 2008 and January 31, 2009…

Abductions and severe beatings are another major concern. According to ICHR, unidentified perpetrators physically abused 73 Gazan men from December 28 to January 31, causing broken legs and arms. Human Rights Watch documented three such cases of Fatah supporters assaulted during and after the Israeli offensive, as well as one case of what appeared to be a politically motivated house arrest.

The group urged Hamas authorities to hold accountable those responsible for using the methods, which it said violated the Palestinian constitution, the UN Convention Against Torture, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Hamas denied that it took part in politically motivated attacks but has promised to investigate any attacks aimed at supporters of the rival Fatah movement.

Earlier this month, Hamas said that it would cooperate with a UN Human Rights Council mission sent to the region to investigate possible war crimes that occurred during hostilities with Israel. In February, Palestinian leaders asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to consider prosecuting Israel authorities for war crimes in the Gaza Strip, but the ICC said it was not sure whether it would have jurisdiction over the region. In January, Israeli government authorities responded to Hamas violence directed at Israel by filing two letters of complaint with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and warned militants that they would pay a “heavy price” if attacks continued. (Jurist, HRW, April 20)

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