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HRW: Hamas should urgently reform justice system

Oct. 3, 2012 1:26 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 4, 2012 12:32 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hamas should urgently reform Gaza's criminal justice system to end arbitrary arrests and ensure detainees have prompt access to lawyers, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

Hamas' Internal Security agency, the drugs unit of the civil police force, and police detectives all torture detainees, according to the Independent Commission for Human Rights, which says it received 147 complaints of torture from these three units in 2011.

The executions of people whose confessions were obtained under torture is a clear signal that authorities should immediately impose a moratorium on, if not abolish, the death penalty, Human Rights Watch said.

Hamas authorities should also promptly, impartially, and thoroughly investigate all credible allegations of abuse in detention, it said.

A day earlier the European Union condemned the use of capital punishment in the Gaza Strip and urged the Hamas government to refrain from executing prisoners.

"Abusive System: Criminal Justice in Gaza," a new report from Human Rights Watch, documents violations by security services, including warrant-less arrests, failure to inform families promptly of detainees’ whereabouts, and subjecting detainees to torture.

"After five years of Hamas rule in Gaza, its criminal justice system reeks of injustice, routinely violates detainees’ rights, and grants impunity to abusive security services,” said Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch.

"Hamas should stop the kinds of abuses that Egyptians, Syrians, and others in the region have risked their lives to bring to an end," he said.

Journalist complaints

The release of the report came as the Gaza Ministry of Interior said it would launch an inquiry into complaints by journalists against reporting restrictions in the coastal enclave.

Interior minister Fathi Hammad issued the decision to form the committee, ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan said. He called on the media to cooperate with the committee.

Hammad has given clear instructions that the work of journalists and media organizations must not be hindered in Gaza, Shahwan added.

On Sunday, a Palestinian press freedom group warned of restrictions and abuse of journalists in the Gaza Strip during a rare demonstration criticizing the Hamas government for negligence in a fire which killed a three-year-old boy.

"We often receive threats when we cover sensitive events. I'm calling on Palestinian authorities to provide a safe working environment for journalists," journalist Husien Jamal said.

In another incident, AFP photographer Mohammed Albaba told Mada that internal security officers prevented all journalists from covering a rally by women calling for political unity.
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