Hamas in Gaza: Abuse and Torture Accusations Plague Hamas

The BBC reports that Human Rights Watch has issued a scathing report about the Hamas government in Gaza. The report starts with the chilling comment “[s]ince it took control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas has executed at least three men convicted on the basis of “confessions” apparently obtained under torture.” This is from the democratically elected leadership of Gaza, who denounces the Assad regime in Syria; and denounced the Mubarak regime in Egypt, while practicing the same tactics.

The report cites cases of military courts trying civilians, a clear violation of International Law:  holding prisoners incommunicado, warrantless arrests, failure to notify family members and alleges systematic violations of the prisoner’s rights during trials by not allowing prisoners access to defense lawyers. The court system has also failed to uphold complaints of violation of due process or warrantless arrests or torture.

Hamas claims to punish those who violate the rights of the citizens of Gaza. While no public records are made about those punishments, it appears from the report that only those members of the civil police force are punished. The military and security forces are effectively immune from all prosecution.

Many of those detained were accused of either collaborating with Israel, Fatah or the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. “Collaboration is a serious crime under Palestinian law, but suspicion of collaboration does not justify torture or other abuse” according to the report. Yet the allegations continue to grow.

Hamas, developed from the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood in 1987. In Gaza between 1967 and 1987 the Muslim Brotherhood gave alms for aid to poor Palestinians, promoted schools, provided students with loans, used religious endowments to lease property and employ people, and established mosques. It is time for Hamas to renounce their militancy and go back to their roots as a social and benevolent group. 

Hamas cannot, in good faith, denounce Assad in Syria and Mubarak in Egypt while employing the same tactics against their people. It is time for them to put their words into action and clean their own house. If not the Arab Spring should come to Gaza.