The Middle East Monitor (MEMO) has obtained primary evidence of how Israeli forces and Palestinian security services have embarked on a campaign of arrests against Hamas supporters in the occupied West Bank. A list containing details of the political detainees arrested in the months of January and February 2010 is attached. It can be seen how, increasingly, arbitrary political arrests are being conducted in Nablus and Hebron, where there is a high level of Hamas support, as well as other governorates across the West Bank. The detainees include university students, professionals, journalists and political activists.
Israeli campaign of detention
The beginning of 2010 has seen an intensification of arrests conducted by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in towns, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank. Sources obtained from the Palestinian Information Centre and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Weekly Reports show how the campaign of arrests has stepped up during the months of January and February, with hundreds of prisoners detained arbitrarily, including women and children under the age of 18.i
Of particular gravity was the IDF raid on the refugee camp of Shuafat (in annexed East Jerusalem), where around 40 people were arrested. The Israeli forces also stormed shops and hospitals in the camp, and arrested civilians based on their allegedly "threatening" political affiliation. The Israeli police claimed that they were "putting order" into the area.
One excuse used to justify the IDF campaign of arrests is that the detentions are intended to prevent a "restoration of the Hamas administrative branch" in the West Bank. It is clear, however, that the purpose of these arrests is purely political and simply a continuation of Israel's policies, which appear to be a significant breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. These breaches have the potential to amount to collective punishment, namely wilfully causing great suffering to the Palestinian people, in particular members of the Hamas movement.
As if the arrest of Palestinians was not enough, the Israeli forces have been targeting popular grassroots movements and human rights defenders seeking Israeli accountability; this is part of the attempt to weaken the Palestinian resistance. For example, the harsh campaign against the international solidarity movement, which has resulted frequently in the arrest of pro-Palestinian foreign nationals. In February alone, two activists with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), one from Spain (Ariadna Marti Hubei) and the other from Australia (Bridget Chappell), who were acting as human shields against the occupation forces, were arrested and deported to their countries of origin, because of their "militant activities".
The complicity of the Palestinian Authority in the campaign of arrests
Israel is not alone when it comes to human rights violations against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories. Over the past few months, there has been an escalation in political arrests and illegal detentions carried out by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
The administrative detention of civilians in the West Bank is normally because of their "affiliation" with the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). PA policies provide wide interpretations of what could constitute a "security threat", to the extent that participating in a charity event, attending a Qur'an lesson at a Hamas-run religious school or participating in a demonstration, may amount to a crime or a threat to the public order and may have "terrorist connotations".
Recently, thirteen Hamas members and supporters were arrested in the West Bank. Among their number was the head of Jima'een municipal council, Izzat Zaitaqi, who was arrested because of critical remarks he had made about PA Prime Minister Salam Fayad's government. Israel claims that the people arrested in the raids are "wanted activists". The arrests were violent and conducted at dawn through raids into a number of occupied West Bank towns. Arrests by the Israeli forces are conducted overnight regularly, in flagrant violation of a security agreement with the Palestinian Authority.
Fatah has attempted to crush the popularity of Hamas in the West Bank, not only by detaining members of its political wing but also by arresting politicians, business men and clerics affiliated with the party. Recently, a number of journalists have been detained by the PA's security services for depicting the crude reality on the ground. This is the situation of Tariq 'Abdul Raziq Abu Zaid (from Jenin), a correspondent of al-Aqsa Television who was arrested by the Palestinian Military Intelligence Service on 15 August 2009. The Palestinian High Court of Justice ordered his immediate release on 12 January 2010, but to-date the court ruling has not been implemented. Mr. Abu Zaid is being denied habeas corpus, in violation not only of international law and human rights provisions, but also of Palestinian Basic Law which deems arbitrary detention and the detention of civilians illegal.ii The harassment and arrest of journalists in the West Bank further constitutes an assault on freedom of opinion and expression, press freedoms and freedom of assembly in the West Bank.
It is clear from the above activities that Palestinian political prisoners are being used as pawns to achieve political and military gains. These practices not only violate international humanitarian law, but also undermine the foundations of democracy. The international community must hold the Palestinian leadership accountable in order to protect the human rights of the Palestinian people.
MEMO reiterates its condemnation of all politically-motivated arrests and detention of civilians and calls for the immediate release of all political detainees held by Palestinian security services in the West Bank, and by the Israeli authorities in administrative detention. We call upon the Palestinian Authority to respect the Palestinian Basic Law, international peremptory norms and the Palestinian High Court of Justice ruling of February 1999, which deem all political arrests illegal.
The political arrest campaign against Hamas members in the West Bank must cease and all political prisoners from all parties who are being held without charge or trial should be released.
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iAnnex 1, Campaign of detention tables
iiArticles (11 and 12) of the Palestinian Basic Law and Law of Penal Procedure NO. (3) of 2001. Rulings of the Palestinian High Court of Justice also clearly emphasise that the Military Justice Authority may not detain civilians.