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Amnesty criticizes Palestinian factions for rights abuses in political violence

[JURIST] Amnesty International [advocacy website] released a 58-page report [text] Wednesday criticizing the two main Palestinian political factions, Hamas [BBC backgrounder] and Fatah [BBC backgrounder], for political violence in the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder] and West Bank that has destroyed the lives of hundreds of civilians and led to human rights abuses, including illegal detention and torture. The report recognized the weakness of Palestinian institutions to stop the internecine violence, but insisted that the circumstances of the Israeli occupation and repeated attacks by Israel on Palestinian targets had also been used as excuses for inaction:

The lawlessness which has increasingly gripped the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent years, culminating in the unprecedented inter-factional violence which occurred in the first half of 2007, is to a large extent the result of the prolonged and systematic failure of the PA [Palestinian Authority] to uphold and enforce the law, to curb the proliferation of unlicensed weapons in the hands of private individuals and groups, and to hold both armed groups and members of the PA security forces who commit human rights abuses accountable for their crimes. Lawlessness has been stimulated by an increasingly entrenched climate of impunity, which has served only to fuel abuses and to bring the PA’s law enforcement and judicial institutions and mechanisms into disrepute within the wider Palestinian community they are supposed to serve.

Amnesty International recognizes that the PA’s ability to fulfill its law-enforcement and administration of justice duties has been severely constrained by outside factors resulting from the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including repeated attacks by the Israeli army against PA security installations and other institutions and restrictions imposed by Israel on the movement and operational capability of the PA security forces in the areas under the PA jurisdiction. Notwithstanding this reality, the organization believes that the PA has too often used these constraints as a pretext to justify its lack of political will and its failure to act against Palestinian armed groups and powerful interest groups responsible for serious crimes – whether against other Palestinians or against Israeli civilians and foreigners.
Tensions between the Islamist Hamas and more secular Fatah movement heightened after Hamas defeated Fatah [JURIST report] in the 2006 Palestianian parliamentary elections, causing a major political shift in the region. Hamas refused to distance itself from terrorism or recognize Israel's right to exist as a nation-state, resulting in increased ostracism by the United States, the European Union, and Israel. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas eventually dissolved the Hamas-led government, but Hamas continues to exercise de facto power in Gaza [JURIST report] after a violent take-over [JP report] of the area in June. Fatah controls the West Bank. BBC News has more. AP has additional coverage.

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