By Khalid Amayreh in Ramallah
The European Union (EU) is considered the main donor and bankroller of the Palestinian Authority (PA), an entity that more or less lives off Europeans' tax payers. Hence, the EU is supposed to have certain leverage on PA domestic policies, including the extent to which the Ramallah-based government is committed to human rights and civil liberties.
Unfortunately, the EU has done next to nothing in terms of urging the PA to conform with internationally-observed human rights standards. The fact that the PA, a virtual police state without a state, continues to be a serious human rights violator, shows that the EU may not really be sufficiently concerned about the status of human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories.
In recent months and weeks, the PA seriously stepped up its human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, provocative raids on homes and business of ideological rivals, and torture.
The cases are two many, and are not confined to a specific geographical region. Even people who are supposed to have a semblance of immunity, like Legislative Council members, have not been spared PA brutality and savagery.
On Monday, PA security agents snatched Legislative Council member Abdul Rahman Zeidan, after provocatively vandalizing his home and abusing his family.
One security official reportedly told him "next time, we shall shoot you in your legs. We don't care about human rights organizations or the media, so you can fill the ether with complaints and speak to all satellite television networks."
A few weeks ago, dozens of PA security personnel, reportedly affiliated with the Preventive Security, raided the home of Samira Halayka, another MP affiliated with the political wing of Hamas.
According to an eyewitness, the forces "behaved like wild animals." Halayka told this writer that the troops "harmed us both physically and psychologically and used extremely abusive language against us."
After vandalizing the home, the security personnel dragged her son, Anas, into a military vehicle.
Anas remained in the Preventive Security custody for 23 days during which he was kept in solitary confinement.
When he finally was released, without being interrogated or asked any question, some morbid psychological signs began appearing on him.
"He is quite depressed, he is always reticent, he seems quite broken," said his mother.
Halayka has filed a complaint with the Independent Commission of Human Rights. The commission has received hundreds of such complaints during the past three years, but has been able to do very little to alleviate the dismal human rights situation in the West Bank, with the main reason being the inability or unwillingness of the Palestinian justice system to challenge the overwhelming hegemony of the security apparatus
In recent weeks, the homes of nearly all MPs affiliated with the Islamic movement have been raided and vandalized. Families were abused and young boys were arrested, seemingly for no reasons other than a certain desire to hurt the feelings of their parents.
When complaints are made to PA security officials, the complainants are usually told to forebear any mistreatment "because this is nothing compared with what happened in Gaza."
Visiting EU officials and representatives repeatedly confronted Palestinian leaders, including PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his Prime Minister Salam Fayyadh who claimed ad nauseam that genuine efforts were being made to rectify the situation.
However, it was amply clear that all the pledges and promises given to the Europeans were a little more than just hot-air, as serious human rights violations, including physical and psychological torture, continued unabated.
In fact, one can safely claim that the PA security agencies have resumed the illegal practice of torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners and detainees. The PA government claimed that a certain progress was being made. However, it was more than clear that whatever progress one can cite was insignificant, minor, and short-lasting. More to the point, this "progress" didn't signal a change of mind on the PA's part as it was made under duress, mainly as a response to western pressure.
PA spokesmen habitually lie about the cruel and illegal practices of the security agencies. They employ all their argumentative skills in a desperate effort to prove that the violations taking place were within the confines of the law. Thus, even the beating of peaceable protesters in Ramallah recently was justified as being consistent with the rule of law.
The truth of the matter is the rule of law is either dormant or paralyzed throughout an entity that often claims to be sovereign when in fact it has no sovereignty at all.
Indeed, the only "sovereignty" the PA seems to have is the right to torment, savage and persecute its own citizens on Israel's behalf. Hence, one wouldn't go too far by saying that Israel bears the overall responsibility for PA violations of its own people's human rights and civil liberties.
This fact makes the status of human rights in occupied Palestine doubly problematic since ordinary Palestinians are made to endure encroachment on their lives and rights and whatever liberties they expect to enjoy by two layers oppression, first by the Israeli masters, the military occupiers, and, second, by their Palestinian slaves, now referred to by a growing number of Palestinian intellectuals as the Palestinian Judenrate.
As the PA's main bankroller, the EU can exert real pressure on the Ramallah authorities to end its politically and ideologically-motivated persecution of a significant segment of the Palestinian people.
To be sure, the PA has the right to treat citizens involved in violations of the law according to the law itself.
But the PA has no right to systematically violate the human rights and civil liberties of citizens on the ground that these citizens are suspected of being non-conformists or for having voted for Hamas in the 2006 elections.
Moreover, it should be made abundantly clear to the PA that whatever excesses that may have happened in the Gaza Strip don't justify, in any way, the three-year inquisition against erstwhile supporters or voters of Hamas taking place in the West Bank.
Hence, it is imperative that the EU creates a real linkage between its financial aid to the PA and the latter's adherence to the universally-accepted standards of human rights. This issue is paramount, especially in the Palestinian context since the main protection against human rights violations, either by Israel or the PA, comes from the moral pressure exerted by the international public opinion.
This week, the usually credible Palestinian human rights organization al-Haq called for the rectification of EU-PA relations in ways that would take human rights in occupied Palestine into account.
The group urged the EU to use all diplomatic and legal tools at its disposal to pressure the PA to immediately:
"Stop the practice of arbitrary detention and arrests; release all prisoners of conscience and political dissidents arbitrarily detained; and ensure that detentions are carried out only for valid criminal or security reasons and are based on arrests warrants issued by the competent authorities."
Another demand that may be added in this regard is that the PA should be pressured to reinstate the hundreds or thousands of civil servants, including many teachers, who have been dismissed from their jobs due to their "non-conformist" political and ideological views.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.