Rights Group: Palestinians Torture Detainees With Impunity

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) -- Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip systematically torture critics in detention, a practice that could amount to crimes against humanity, an international rights group said Friday.

Human Rights Watch called in its report for donor countries to cut off funding to Palestinian security forces that commit such crimes and urged the International Criminal Court to investigate.

The report alleged that Palestinian security forces "use solitary confinement and beatings, including whipping their feet, and force detainees into painful stress positions for prolonged periods, including hoisting their arms behind their backs with cables or rope, to punish and intimidate critics and opponents and elicit confessions."

HRW's report comes a year after the death of Nizar Banat, an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority, whose family says he died after security forces stormed his residence in the middle of the night and beat him with metal batons. His death sparked weeks of protests against the PA, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Palestinian security forces violently dispersed some of those protests..

Amnesty International said last week that the Palestinian Authority has failed to hold its security forces accountable for the death. Palestinian authorities arrested 14 officers last summer and are trying them in a military court, but have taken no action against top commanders.

"More than a year after beating to death Nizar Banat, the Palestinian Authority continues to arrest and torture critics and opponents," said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.

"Systematic abuse by the PA and Hamas forms a critical part of the repression of the Palestinian people."

The group listed Palestinians who it said had been arbitrarily arrested in the aftermath of Banat's death.

HRW said security forces are not held to account for the alleged torture and that given their systematic nature over many years, the practice could amount to crimes against humanity.

Palestine is part of the Convention Against Torture, which requires members to work to prevent torture.

The report also describes Israeli mistreatment and torture of Palestinian detainees in the West Bank, saying that no indictments have been issued against Israeli security forces despite hundreds of complaints made over the last 20 years.