Palestinian Authority: End Violence Against Egypt Demonstrators

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Palestinian Authority: End Violence Against Egypt Demonstrators

US, EU Should Suspend Security Assistance to PA Unless Abuses are Addressed

RAMALLAH - The Palestinian Authority should end police violence against peaceful
demonstrators, the latest instance being an attack against
demonstrators at an evening rally on February 2, 2011, in Ramallah in
support of the Egypt protests, Human Rights Watch said today. Police
punched, kicked, and detained participants in the demonstration, as well
as at least two journalists and a Human Rights Watch research
assistant.

"The Palestinian Authority should immediately make clear that its
‘state-building' training of security forces does not include beating
peaceful demonstrators," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North
Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The PA should take action
against the responsible police officers or the US and EU should find
another use for their taxpayers' money."

Protesters began to arrive at Manara Square in downtown Ramallah
at 9 p.m. in response to messages sent out earlier in the day via
Facebook and SMS asking people to demonstrate in solidarity with
protesters in Egypt. The number of protesters swelled to around 100 to
150 people, who chanted slogans such as, "Long live Egypt!" and
"Mubarak, Mubarak, Ben Ali is waiting for you," a reference to the
ousted Tunisian president. Human Rights Watch observed as Palestinian
Authority (PA) police gathered at the side of the square.

The demonstration had been peaceful when regular police and "special
forces" police, identifiable by their uniforms, began beating
demonstrators without warning. Police used teargas and batons to
disperse the protesters. A police officer told Human Rights Watch that
"all the security forces were present tonight," including police
detectives and officers from the Preventive Security agency and General
Intelligence Service, all in street clothes.

Human Rights Watch saw police continuing to beat protesters after
they were arrested while taking the protesters to the police station.
Police grabbed participants by the neck, punched them in the face, and
hit them in the legs and torso with their knees.

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that two men in civilian clothes
dragged a Palmedia journalist, Ibrahim Hammad, away while he was filming
the demonstration with his video camera.

Mohammed Jaradat, a freelance journalist with an office overlooking
Manara Square, identified himself to police as a journalist and
displayed his press card, but PA forces grabbed him and took him to the
police station near the square. They released him a short time later, at
10:35 p.m. Human Rights Watch later observed a bruise on Jaradat's
face; he said he had been punched by police.

Jaradat also told Human Rights Watch that he saw Hammad while he was
in detention and that police had confiscated Hammad's videotape.

Police also beat and arrested a Human Rights Watch research
assistant who identified himself as such to the police. Police beat and
kicked him continuously while dragging him into the nearby police
station. They released him without charge after being briefly detaining
him.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

Police had released three other demonstrators while at least four others remained in detention as of 10:35 p.m. local time.

The US and European Union provide substantial aid to the PA,
including programs to train and equip its security forces. The EU gave
the Palestinian Authority more than €230 million (US$315 million) last
year, including for a police training program called EUPOL COPPS, which
has its headquarters in Ramallah. The US provided $350 million for
security and program assistance, primarily to the National Security
Forces, and an additional $150 million to the PA in direct budgetary
support in 2010.

Human Rights Watch earlier this week documented PA attacks on other pro-democracy demonstrations, and has reported extensively on its human rights abuses, including torture and harassment against Palestinian civil society.

The US and the EU should suspend aid to Palestinian Authority
security forces unless the Palestinian authorities take appropriate
measures to end such abuses and allow Palestinians to enjoy their rights
to freedom of assembly and expression, Human Rights Watch said.

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Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.

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