US support to PA security services

Since shortly after the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the United States has periodically provided assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for civil security and counterterrorism purposes. U.S security sector assistance began publicly after the conclusion of Oslo Accord where the security sector of PA has received training and equipment from the U.S since they were established in the 1990s. The U.S. budgets about $60 million in security funding annually for the Palestinian forces.

While an EU-funded programme has offered training to civil police, the US focused on the national security forces, intelligence and presidential guard.

The security forces patrol the Israeli-occupied West Bank, police areas under Palestinian Authority control and work to counter militants from groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The forces share intelligence and coordinate their movements with Israel.

On 2018 President Trump cuts more than $200 million in aid to PA, in light of the last disconnect between the sides since the decision to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognize it as the capital of Israel. As a result of this decision USA announced that no further contributions to UNRWA would be made.

The only major stream of U.S. funding to the Palestinians that continued unabated, was the assistance to security forces. It aimed at countering militants from organizations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and at improving rule of law in areas that the PA controls. It also appears to encourage greater PA security coordination with Israel.

PA violation of Palestinian human rights activists: A controversial Electronic Crime Law was signed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on June 24, 2017. This law described as illegal by the international humanitarian organizations, as it was passed discreetly without consultations with Palestinian civil society organizations or the public. It contains many gaps that allow for the suppression of freedoms, therefore it violates international law and the State of Palestine’s obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy. The law used vague terms to suppress unfavorable political views or criticisms of Palestinian leadership.

OHCHR reports, which are issued periodically, reported each time violations in human rights towards Palestinians in west Band. The Palestinian security services in the West Bank carried out dozens of arbitrary arrests of Palestinians, often based on the person’s political affiliation. Ill-treatment, sometimes amounting to torture, has taken place in Palestinian places of detention. The allegations concern various methods including hanging arrested people by their hands – a form of torture known as shabah, beatings, threats, deprivation of sleep and solitary confinement.

Several NGO’s among it “Lawyers for Justice” Organization reported as well that on multiple occasions, security forces in the West Bank had summoned and detained journalists and social media activists, including women, for posting statements and videos criticizing the authorities. Organizations working in human rights field said that the security services have been leading a campaign of arrests in the West Bank since the beginning of the solidarity activities in support of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods, Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the war on Gaza.”

The most recent chapter of these violations was the brutal crime carried out during the arrest of Nizar Banat (43 years), a peaceful activist who was one of the main opponents of the Palestinian Authority and its president. According to eyewitnesses, “a security force broke the house and hit Nizar with batons on the head as soon as he woke up, and dragged him into the arrest car, while he was bleeding”. News of death announced hours after arrest, resulting, earlier, in hundreds of angry Palestinians marched towards Abbas’s presidential compound in Ramallah demanding his dismissal over Banat’s death.

Actions to be taken towards PA to stop violations: A source from the European Union Office in Jerusalem confirmed that there was a great and unprecedented European anger at power practices regarding public freedoms and violence against activists, explaining that the European taxpayer held his Governments accountable for supporting the Authority, which was committing human rights violations as well as corruption. He pointed out, however, that the overall payment was for humanitarian assistance and not for the security agencies. He wondered if the support to PA should continue while there is no development or dedication to good governance and violations by the Palestinian Authority against Palestinian citizens especially the postponement of elections.

Palestinian authorities should implement the treaties Palestine has ratified, especially the Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol, and establish a national body to oversee places of detention.

International societies and human rights defenders should call on formal investigations in a thorough and impartial manner concerning arbitrary detention torturing detainees and death cases.

In addition assistance to security forces involved in the widespread arbitrary arrests and torture should be suspended until Palestinian Authority security services ensuring accountability for torture, arbitrary arrests, and other serious crimes. PA is urged to take effective steps to stop arresting critics and torturing detainees and to investigate, prosecute, and punish security officers responsible for abuses.

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