A British Member of the European Parliament has quizzed the EU Foreign Affairs chief over torture in prisons run by the Palestinian Authority. Phil Bennion MEP asked Cathy Ashton on 30 May about the extent of her knowledge of the spread of torture in the occupied Palestinian territories and whether there are safeguards to prevent aid provided by the European Union from financing such human rights violations in any form.
Ashton responded by saying that the EU is aware of these violations and the prevalence of torture in the prisons by the PA's security services, but she denied that the aid reaches any of the agencies, in particular the General Intelligence Service. She added that these violations are discussed regularly with the PA leadership and that a meeting will be held with Palestinian officials to take decisive action to stop them.
The issue was raised by the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK, which stressed that ongoing EU support and the presence of European security missions in the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority send the wrong signal to the PA security agencies, giving them the green light to continue their abuses.
Ashton's response, claims the AOHR, comes at the time when the EU is funding the construction of castle-like prisons in Nablus, Jenin and Jericho, costing European taxpayers millions of Euros. It is in such prisons, claims the human rights group, that security agents torture detained Palestinians, which makes the EU complicit in systematic abuses.
In a press statement issued on Monday, the AOHR called on the European Union to send a fact-finding mission composed of parliamentarians and jurists to monitor the reality of grave human rights violations in the Palestinian territories, and the role of its own security missions, particularly that of European police forces. Calling on EU member states with such missions in the Palestinian territories to withdraw them, the AOHR also asked them to investigate accusations against their own nationals that they have taken part in the torture of Palestinians directly or indirectly.
The organisation has also suggested that the UN, the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation should form a joint committee "to investigate the practices of the security apparatuses in the territory of the Palestinian Authority, and to hold accountable those who are responsible for them, as they have become a threat to the rights of the Palestinian people who are struggling against the [Israeli] occupation in order to survive."
A report by the AOHR detailing human rights abuses by the Palestinian Authority in cooperation with the Israeli occupation forces has been circulated to members of the European Parliament.