During the past week, Hamas, the de facto government in the Gaza Strip, summoned dozens of Palestinians to police stations and internal security headquarters. The summonses were issued in response to alleged criticism against both the government and Hamas as a political party. Some of those that were summoned were also interrogated about their alleged affiliation with the newly established Tamarad Movement, the stated aim of which is to end Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip.
Hasan ‘Ali Muhammad Abu Jarad - Northern Gaza Governorate
On Sunday, 8 September 2013 Hasan, 58, a professor of English at the Al-Azhar University in Gaza, received a summons from the Palestinian police in Beit Lahya for the next day. The following day, at approximately 10:00 am, Hasan went to the police station. Once there, a police officer asked him to hand over his mobile phone and to wait in a corridor. Hasan, however, refused to give his mobile phone to the policeman. Hasan recalls that as he waited in the corridor he was verbally abused by the policeman, who acted in a provocative and disrespectful manner, causing an argument to erupt between the two men.
Shortly afterwards, Hasan was taken into an interrogation room, where he was accused of insulting the Gaza government and Hamas political party during his lectures at Al-Azhar University. Hasan rejected the accusations and protested against the way in which he had been treated prior to his interrogation. He also informed the police interrogator that he intended to complain to the Minister of Interior about his treatment. The interrogator then ordered Hasan not to involve himself in politics and to sign a pledge committing himself not to criticise the Gaza government and Hamas again. Despite initially refusing to sign the pledge, Hasan eventually agreed, under the threat of detention. Hasan was also forced to give a copy of his Identity card and a personal picture to the officer, before being released on the same day at approximately 11:00 am. (Affidavit No. 8950/2013)
Muhammad Muhammad Laqqan - Khan Younes Governorate
On the evening of Friday, 13 September 2013, Muhammad, 25, a university student, was on his way back to Khan Younes after watching a football match in Gaza City with some other supporters of the Khan Younes football team. The bus on which the supporters were travelling broke down near the al-Saraya junction in the centre of Gaza city. Consequently, the students left the bus and searched for taxis in order to continue their journey to Khan Younes.
Excited by the result of the game, some of the supporters of the Khan Younes team were chanting and shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is the Greatest) in support of their team. While trying to find taxis, a stranger approached Muhammad and asked him to follow him without offering any further explanation. Muhammad refused to comply, resulting in a heated discussion between him and the stranger. Other supporters, who witnessed the exchange, intervened to prevent the stranger from taking Muhammad by force.
At that moment, Muhammad saw a civilian car stopping nearby. Two people emerged from the car, introduced themselves as police officers and asked Muhammad to get into the car, which he did. Within ten minutes, they arrived at the al-Abbas police station in Gaza city, where Muhammad was interrogated about his relationship with the Tamarad Movement. Half an hour later, Muhammad was taken to another police station that is located in the Ansar area, to the west of Gaza city. Once there, Muhammad was taken into a room, where he was beaten on his shoulders by a police officer. Muhammad was then ordered to face the wall while the police officer hit him on his left leg with a hose pipe. Muhammad was also forced to straighten his arms, allowing the police officer to beat him on his palms ten times with the hose pipe. Muhammad recalls that the police officer stopped hitting him for 15 minutes but then continued to beat him with a baton on his right leg until he fell to the ground, suffering from severe pain. He was left on the ground for about an hour, until another police officer arrived and took him to a different room. There, Muhammad’s personal details were recorded and several photos were taken of him.
Muhammad was then returned to the first room, where he was again interrogated about his relation with the Tamarad Movement. Muhammad was accused of inciting other supporters of the Khan Younes football team to chant “Allahu Akbar” during the match, in response to the Tamarad Movement’s call for people to chant “Allahu Akbar” that Friday. Muhammad explained that they were chanting and shouting “Allahu Akbar” because they were happy that their team had won the football match.
After asking Muhammad further questions in order to identify his level of religious knowledge, the interrogator ordered him to continuously shout “Allahu Akbar” from a window in the interrogation room for ten minutes, which Muhammad did. Muhammad recalls that he was then asked repeatedly about his political affiliation and when he answered that he did not belong to any political party, the interrogator beat him severely all over his body, again using a hose pipe. This continued until Muhammad fell to the ground with pain.
Approximately 30 minutes later, the interrogator ordered Muhammad to sign a pledge. When Muhammad tried to read what was written in the pledge, the interrogator shouted at him to sign it quickly and Muhammad did as he was told, without knowing the content of the document.
At about 10:00 pm that day, Muhammad was taken by a police car to the al-Saraya junction, where passersby helped him to return to his home in Khan Younes. An hour later, Muhammad reached his house. Due to the severe pain in his right leg, Muhammad’s father took him to hospital, where medical examinations showed that he had sustained a fracture to his right leg and bruises on his toes. Muhammad’s leg was put into a cast and he was released from hospital the same night. (Affidavit No. 8959/2013).
Al-Haq is gravely concerned by the ill-treatment of Palestinians by the police in the Gaza Strip and stresses that such acts violate the right to freedom of expression. The treatment of the detainees also amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and may amount to torture. Al-Haq emphasises that the actions of the police in both cases are in violation of Palestinian Basic Law and the standards upheld by international human rights law. Al-Haq calls upon the government in Gaza to hold immediate, transparent and impartial investigations into all incidents of ill-treatment and to hold perpetrators accountable