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Hamas ministry rejects torture allegations

Oct. 3, 2012 4:53 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 5, 2012 2:38 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Ministry of Interior in Gaza on Wednesday said it was reviewing a Human Rights Watch report that accused the Hamas security forces of torturing detainees.

The Hamas-run ministry says it applauds the role of human rights organizations in protecting rights. "We assure you that our detention centers are open for human rights centers," the ministry said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch said the Interior Ministry had barred the Independent Commission for Human Rights from visiting detainees in the Internal Security detention center at al-Ansar since 2009 and in the civil al-Soraya prison since 2011.

The ministry said the report by Human Rights Watch was politically biased as it failed to address the violations of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

"The report doesn't talk about violations committed by the security forces in the West Bank against our people where there are hundreds of political prisoners which shows that the report is not fair and balanced and it's merely a political one."

In its report "Abusive System: Criminal Justice in Gaza," 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.

The ministry said issues raised in the report were inaccurate and dated, questioning "Why are they bringing up these issues now?"

The ministry says it has 10 committees charged with monitoring the work of investigators and detention procedures. The Internal Security service is under the jurisdiction of the ministry and is subject to the same rules and laws as all security forces, it said.

Human Rights Watch said the Internal Security service in particular had been granted "absolute impunity" by Hamas authorities.

The Hamas ministry said the Gaza government took all complaints seriously and had departments dedicated to addressing grievances. "Many members of the security services were punished for violating the law, some were fired, some had their salaries reduced."

Human Rights Watch noted in its report that Hamas officials claim to have disciplined hundreds of security service members since 2007, but urged Hamas authorities "to publish verifiable information about accountability for abuses."

None of the officials interviewed in Gaza knew of any criminal prosecutions of Internal Security officers "despite consistent allegations of severe abuse," the report added.

Human Rights Watch said at least three men had been executed in Gaza since 2007 on the basis of "confessions" apparently obtained under torture.

In light of the use of torture, the New York-based organization called on the Gaza government to immediately impose a moratorium on, if not abolish, the death penalty.

The ministry said that few death sentences were implemented because of a lengthy appeal process. "We would be happy if someone is proved innocent instead of convicting him."

But regarding abolishing the death penalty, the ministry said it was "part of the Palestinian law."

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