Palestinian police in the West Bank have been accused by Amnesty International of mounting violent attacks on peaceful protesters.
In a 29-page briefing – em>‘Shut up we are the police’: Use of excessive force by Palestinian Authority (PA) in the occupied West Bank – Amnesty shows how the Palestinian police and security forces have repeatedly carried out unprovoked and unlawful attacks on peaceful protesters. Amnesty also accuses the PA authorities of allowing them to do so with impunity.
Most recently, the PA police and security forces are alleged to have violently attacked peaceful protesters on at least four separate occasions during July and August. Some attacks were carried out by officers in plain clothes who targeted and sought to intimidate women protesters and journalists who were on the scene to report on the demonstrations.
Security forces have also been implicated in causing the deaths of two Palestinians in recent months. On 27 August, 37-year-old Amjad Odeh died after he was shot in the head – apparently by PA police – during a protest. Meanwhile, on 8 May, Khaleda Kawazbeh died in unexplained circumstances during a PA police raid in the village of Se’ir, near Hebron, and eight others were injured.
Amnesty is calling on the Palestinian Authority to hold its police and security forces accountable for such human rights violations, and is also calling on the EU, the USA and other donor governments providing financial aid to the PA to train its police and security forces to similarly demand that perpetrators are held accountable to international human rights law and standards.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther said: “Standards during the policing of demonstrations in the West Bank continue to fall woefully short of those prescribed by international law. As a result, the rights to freedom of expression and assembly are being severely eroded.
“The Palestinian Authority needs urgently to call an end to this pattern of abuse by its police and security forces and to break the cycle of impunity which fosters it.
“The PA must ensure that police officers and other members of the security forces who commit unlawful acts against protesters and others are held to account through criminal prosecutions, and ensure that all law-enforcement personnel are adequately trained to respect rights when policing protests.
“International donors need to make clear to the PA’s leadership that they are not prepared to tolerate continued rights violations by PA police and security forces and that future assistance is dependent on PA leaders’ ensuring full accountability.”
Another incident highlighted in Amnesty’s briefing is the police and security forces’ attack on peaceful demonstrators in Ramallah during 30 June and 1 July last year. During protests over Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s meeting with an Israeli government minister, at least five protesters required hospital treatment after the attack by security officials.
A 23-year-old woman who was hospitalised following the violence told Amnesty: “I was attacked by a police officer in civilian clothes who grabbed me, scratched my arm with his nails and kicked me on my legs … I was then attacked by a police officer in uniform who beat me with a baton on the head which made me fall on the ground.”
The Ramallah violence caused public outrage and President Abbas announced an Independent Investigative Committee to examine the conduct of the police and security forces, with the Interior Minister also setting up a separate internal investigation. More than a year later, the PA has yet to publish the full report of the independent investigation, although it has disclosed a summary of the findings – including that PA police and security forces used “unnecessary”, “unjustified” and “disproportionate” force against peaceful protesters who posed no risk and journalists. The Interior Ministry’s internal investigation is said to have reached similar conclusions, although its report has not been published either.
Philip Luther added: “Despite the findings of the Independent Investigative Committee, the PA has not prosecuted any of its police or security forces for the violence they perpetrated against peaceful protesters and other unlawful conduct in Ramallah on 30 June and 1 July last year.
“Such impunity inevitably fosters further abuses, as evidenced by further incidents in which PA forces have used excessive force against protesters since mid-2012.”