Palestinian Watchdog Slams Prison Torture, Urges Press Freedom

Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip must stop the use of torture in prisons and ease press restrictions, a government watchdog panel said.

The Independent Commission for Human Rights, which is appointed by the Palestinian Authority, called on officials to “issue clear instructions to the security agencies not to inflict torture or ill-treatment in the detention centers,” according to its annual report issued today. It said journalists are often subject to illegal detention and some newspapers have been unfairly stopped from publishing.

“Overall the human rights situation in Palestine did not improve in 2013,” the report said. Among the reasons cited were the split between the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the Fatah-ruled West Bank, Israel’s military occupation and stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party is in negotiations with Hamas to resolve the seven-year schism between the two movements and form a joint government. Israel suspended U.S.-backed peace negotiations last month to protest the reconciliation talks because it considers Hamas a terrorist organization, a designation also made by the U.S. and European Union.

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