Palestinere på Vestbredden som kan mistenkes for å stå i ledtog med Hamas eller andre lignende organisasjoner risikerer arrestasjon og tortur. Forholdene er blitt verre siden angrepet på jødiske bosettere i august.

Torturen er en belastning, både på palestinske myndigheters legitimitet, og stiller det internasjonale samfunn i forlegenhet. USA har backet opp sikkerhetstjenestene til Mahmoud Abbas. Men tortur gjør ingen populær, bare fryktet.

There is evidence that a significant number of detainees are tortured during interrogation. The most common form of abuse is known as Shabeh, in which detainees are handcuffed and bound in stress positions for long periods.

Claims of torture and abuse by members of the Palestinian security forces are not new. There has, however, been a sharp rise in reported cases, leading Human Rights Watch to remark last month that “reports of torture by Palestinian security forces keep rolling in”. The New York-based organisation also bemoaned the “rampant impunity” of officers allegedly involved in the abuses.

Many analysts and observers fear that life in the west Bank is taking on an increasingly authoritarian hue. “I feel real concern that we are reaching the level of a police state,” says Shawan Jabarin, the director of al-Haq, a Ramallah-based human rights group.

It is a concern shared by Randa Siniora, the director of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, the ombudsman responsible for processing complaints against Palestinian officials. Her commission received more complaints about torture in the west Bank in October than in any month since mid- 2009. “We are looking at a very gloomy situation,” she said. “I am afraid that this [problem of torture and abuse] will become systematic.”

Groups such as al-Haq, which once only documented human rights abuses by Israeli authorities, say they are spending an increasing amount of time on cases in which Palestinians abuse their fellow countrymen.

The deterioration is linked closely to a crackdown on Islamist activists and sympathisers after a deadly attack on Jewish West Bank settlers by Hamas gunmen in August. In an attempt to counter the renewed threat from Hamas, and keen to prove the PA capable of dealing forcefully with its rival, the authority’s General Intelligence and Preventive Security units rounded up more than 700 suspects.

Human rights groups say almost all were arrested without proper warrants and held, contrary to Palestinian law, without the assent of civilian judges or prosecutors. Many were denied access to lawyers and family members. In several dozen cases, including that of Mr Abu Ayyash, the Palestinian High Court of Justice ordered an immediate release – only for its decision to be either ignored or circumvented by the security apparatus.

For governments in Europe and North America, the worsening human rights situation poses a thorny political dilemma. Many of them provide generous financial support to the PA and regard Salam Fayyad, the prime minister, as an indispensable ally.

The US, fearing an Islamist takeover of the west Bank, has provided much of the training for Mr Fayyad’s security forces.

Some western diplomats say the harsh tactics will spark a popular backlash and undermine the PA. “This is of concern to us,” says one European diplomat. Human rights abuses threaten not only to “damage the long-term legitimacy and credibility of the Palestinian Authority” but raise difficult questions for donors: “If we are building a police state – what are we actually doing here?”

Financial Times

Allegations of West Bank torture increase
By Tobias Buck in Jerusalem