Rights org calls for an end to political arrests

Dozens of Palestinians have been arrested on political grounds by security services of the two Palestinian governments in Gaza and Ramallah. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) calls upon the two governments to stop political arrests which are prohibited under the Palestinian Basic Law and a Palestinian High Court of Justice ruling, and to release all detainees who have been arrested in this context.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at least 100 members and supporters of Hamas, including public figures, Imams of mosques, school teachers, university students, journalists and elected members of local councils, have been detained by Palestinian security services in the West Bank for various periods. The detainees include a number of journalists: Mustafa Sabri, 42, who is also a member of the municipal council of Qalqilya and who was arrested on 7 August 2008; Fareed Hammad, 35, from Silwad village northeast of Ramallah, a reporter of the local al-Ayyam daily, who has been detained since 29 July 2008; and ‘Awadh al-Rajoub, 31, from Dura village southwest of Hebron, a reporter for al-Jazeera.net, who has been detained since 29 July 2008. According to a number of released detainees and families of those who are still detained, security services summon persons for interrogation and then detain them without presenting them to the attorney general’s office or judges. A number of released detainees also stated that they were subjected to torture and cruel treatment.

In the Gaza Strip, security services of the Gaza government have continued to detain a number of members and supporters of Fatah movement, including 15 ones who occupy leading positions, including secretaries of districts and the spokesman of Fatah movement in Gaza, Dr. Hazem Abu Shanab. Political detainees include also Dr. Ussama al-Farra, Governor of Khan Younis, and Mr. Ahmed al-Qidwa, Governor of Gaza.

PCHR reiterates its condemnation of political arrests and:

1) Reminds of the Palestinian High Court of Justice ruling of 20 February 1999 which considered political arrests illegal; and calls upon all executive parties to respect the Court ruling and refrain from conducting illegal political arrests.

2) Calls upon the attorney general and chief justices of trial and appeal courts to assume their responsibilities of monitoring prisons to ensure that no one is detained illegally and that arrests warrants (if there are any) and procedures detention are consistent with article 126 of the Penal Measures Law #3 of 2001, and to activate articles 105, 123 and 128 of this law.

3) Reminds that torture is prohibited under the Palestinian law and it constitutes a serious violation of international human rights standards and instruments, especially the Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 1984, and stresses that perpetrators of crimes of torture are not acquitted in prescription.

4) Calls for releasing all detainees who are held in violation of the law and taking necessary legal action to ensure their enjoyment of the rights ensured for them by the law.

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