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March 28, 2016

Where’s the Coverage? Palestinian Official Admits ‘Torture Happens’

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U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah


Rami Hamdallah, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA), acknowledged in a March 16, 2016 interview with German media outlet Deutsche Welle, that “torture happens” in PA prisons. Yet, his admission apparently received no coverage by the mainstream U.S. news media.

The PA official’s comments were highlighted in a policy brief by analyst Grant Rumley of Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a D.C.-based think tank.

Speaking on camera to Deutsche Welle, Hamdallah granted that, “Certain things happen, torture happens, but it is not the policy [of the Palestinian Authority].

As CAMERA has noted, (“Hamas Cracks Down—on Palestinian Journalists,” Jan. 13, 2016) torture of Palestinian Arabs in both the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) by the PA and in Gaza by Hamas, is not uncommon.

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), a Palestinian group that seeks to promote “inherent values of justice, equality and human rights,” reports that over the last two years there has been a surge in complaints about torture in PA and Hamas prisons.

Torture by the PA extends past prison walls and has included the targeting of journalists and teachers, among others.

In December 2015, the Palestinian Center for Developments and Media Freedoms accused PA security forces of using “violent means” against journalists. Such forces “reportedly beat and detained [reporters]…preventing them from news coverage while inspecting and seizing their equipment” (“Group urges investigations into PA violations against journalists,” Dec. 28, 2015). ICHR’s director general, Dr. Ammar Dwaik, stated of the 782 complaints regarding torture of Palestinian Arabs by Hamas and the PA, at least 35 involved journalists who were detained. Fifteen of that number were “summoned for interrogation or briefly detained for posting controversial comments on social media, especially Facebook.”

One individual detained for a critical Facebook post, Ahmad al-Deek, alleged in a law suit against the PA filed last year that he was deprived of sleep and beaten with sticks for five days for criticizing the authority.

FDD analyst Rumley noted that “ahead of a Palestinian teacher strike in February [2016], the PA arrested and held nearly two dozen teachers.” As CAMERA reported at the time (“Journalist: Striking Palestinian Teachers Show PA Corruption,” March 9), the PA’s security crackdown and illegal detentions were to “hinder or prevent” rallies protesting corruption. Rumley also pointed out that “during last year’s student council race at Birzeit University …the PA had arrested and beaten” several students affiliated with rival Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group that rules the Gaza Strip.

Yet, major U.S. news media have shown little interest in reporting allegations of PA torture—or admissions by the authority’s prime minister that those claims are not without merit. A Lexis-Nexis search of U.S. print news media, including USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times and The New York Times, among others, showed no mention of Hamdallah’s acknowledgement that PA torture occurs.

Rumley noted that “Palestinians have little recourse in confronting the PA’s abuses” that indicate “the room for dissent in the West Bank is shrinking, and those who challenge the system continue to pay a painful price.” That price likely will continue to be paid as long as news media outlets fail to report human rights violations by the PA.

Posted by SD at March 28, 2016 12:16 PM

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