West Bank turning into a police state where torture is frequently used

American officials and journalists visiting the West Bank, if they are eager to boost the credibility of its unelected political leaders, like to speak about the professionalism of the Palestinian Authority’s security services. For instance, an aide to Hillary Clinton was recently quoted by Roger Cohen, saying:

[A]s we approached Ramallah there were these troops in berets. They were so professional, we thought at first they were Israel Defense Forces. But, no, they were Palestinians, this completely professional outfit, and it was clear this was something new.

What could be more inspiring — to a visitor from Washington — than Palestinians who looked like Israelis?

The Financial Times presents a much grimmer picture in which local human rights groups warn that a brutal regime is emerging with the authoritarianism of a police state. (As a report by David Rose almost two years ago makes clear, the trend is not new — but it is getting worse.)

Naiema Abu Ayyash’s worst fears were confirmed this month when she finally managed to visit her husband in Jericho prison.

Badr Abu Ayyash, 42, a farmer and local politician in the west Bank, was arrested by the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security unit on September 14. Aside from two brief and apparently supervised phone calls, his family was denied all contact with him.

“He looked very different,” said Ms Abu Ayyash, a mother of four. “He could hardly walk. He had difficulty breathing and was very thin. When he shook my hand, I noticed that he had no strength at all.”

She has no doubt her husband was tortured. “I started screaming at the officer: ‘What are you doing to him?”’ Her pleas fell on deaf ears. After a few cursory exchanges, her husband was led back to his cell.

According to former inmates and activists familiar with Palestinian prisons, Ms Abu Ayyash has every reason to be worried. They say prisoners affiliated with the Islamist Hamas movement, which runs the Gaza Strip, are beaten regularly and deprived of medicine and basic comforts such as blankets and mattresses.

There is evidence that a significant number of detainees are tortured during interrogation. The most common form of abuse is known as Shabeh, in which detainees are handcuffed and bound in stress positions for long periods.

Claims of torture and abuse by members of the Palestinian security forces are not new. There has, however, been a sharp rise in reported cases, leading Human Rights Watch to remark last month that “reports of torture by Palestinian security forces keep rolling in”. The New York-based organisation also bemoaned the “rampant impunity” of officers allegedly involved in the abuses.

Many analysts and observers fear that life in the west Bank is taking on an increasingly authoritarian hue. “I feel real concern that we are reaching the level of a police state,” says Shawan Jabarin, the director of al-Haq, a Ramallah-based human rights group.

It is a concern shared by Randa Siniora, the director of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, the ombudsman responsible for processing complaints against Palestinian officials. Her commission received more complaints about torture in the west Bank in October than in any month since mid- 2009. “We are looking at a very gloomy situation,” she said. “I am afraid that this [problem of torture and abuse] will become systematic.”

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5 thoughts on “West Bank turning into a police state where torture is frequently used

  1. pabelmont

    There is no proof against human rights violations by police. Israel’s police are not strangers to torture. American CIA, ditto. that noble democracy, Egypt, may even violate a H/R now and again. Etc.

    However, the Israeli/American destruction of the democratically elected PA government by arrest of most Hamas legislators and arming of Fateh against Hamas (leading to a small war in Gaza and the separation of the Fateh-PA from Hamas government in Gaza) did not help: these steps clearly made the Fateh-PA “clients” of Israel/USA, and such clients do what they are told. And act (even on their own) in their own narrow interest rather than in a broader “Palestinian interest”. So, no surprise. Merely tears.

  2. Ian Arbuckle

    Why am I not surprised that the Palestinian security forces under US General Dolton’s expert training and responsibility are using torture and other methods prohibited under international law.

    It seems that there is not much Palestinian support for these American trained Fatah thugs either.
    Palestinian Support Wanes for American-Trained Forces

  3. Ian Arbuckle

    correction :
    Why am I not surprised that the Palestinian security forces under US General Dayton’s expert training and responsibility are using torture and other methods prohibited under international law.

    The general’s name and rank and background (Wikipedia):
    Lieutenant General Keith W. Dayton, (b. 1949) United States Army, completed his term as the U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel-Palestinian Authority in Tel Aviv, Israel in October 2010. He has also served as the Director of the Iraq Survey Group, as a senior member of the Joint Staff, and as U.S. Defense Attache in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia.

    Lt. Gen. Dayton served five years as the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the Palestinian Authority. His leadership of the USSC team included overseeing the training of Palestinian Authority forces. He left Israel in October 2010 and is believed to be considering retirement from the military.

  4. Christopher Hoare

    It is clear that the training provided by the US under General Dayton and carried out in Jordan was intended to do no more than provide goon squads to intimidate the Palestinian people into accepting whatever phony ‘peace plan’ the US administration arrived at from any agreement the ‘two state travesty’ talks came up with.

    Obama and the US administration don’t give a damn for the Palestinians — they just want the heat turned down. Since the Palestinians are the weakest party at the table, it’s their future that is being crippled to achieve this. Obama is well know for picking the easy way out — the world is being given a graphic demonstration that the US as a nation will sacrifice anyone whose cause becomes inconvenient.

    Luckily there are smart people in the world who will remember and build on this. The US will get its ‘reward’ in due course, when it needs something.

  5. Norman

    Well, it seems I’m not alone at this table. Thanks to the U.S. & the Israeli’s, there is an elite Palestinian military force to do the bidding. I guess that’s the reason Petraius said that NATO should cover the conflict there as well. One thing is very clear now, the American Empire is moving rapidly into its waning phase. Considering the just past election in the U.S. and the turmoil that has been predicted starting in January, we won’t have too long to wait until we see where the Wars are going! There is one wild card that the Powers haven’t got, that’s all the Military troops that have served in the wars that have been cast aside, just like used toilet paper by the government. The old saying of don’t count your chickens before they hatch really holds true today. Just because the Military trained then used the combat troops to do the dirty work, these same powers think that loyalty will continue. The fools on the hill should wake up to the fact that there a many millions of combat trained personnel who killed others in the name of what? When their own government betrays them, then they can’t be counted on as backup nor that they will fall into line. Abuse is a nasty way of guaranteeing payback just the opposite of what is wanted.

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