ARAB prisoners beaten and tortured, innocent bystanders killed by gunfire – another damning human rights report.
But the difference this time is that the violence is being perpetrated not by coalition forces in Iraq, but by the Palestinian Authority, and the victims are its own people.
The report, partly funded by the Finnish government, claims Palestinian cities are in a state of near anarchy, with people on the payroll of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority (PA) blamed for 90 per cent of gangland violence.
It highlights numerous incidents of torture of prisoners and refers to the killing of civilians in gunbattles between Palestinian factions.
It is another blow for Mr Arafat’s organisation, which was recently accused of misusing £134 million of European Union funds. Mr Arafat was accused of signing cheques to people linked with terrorist activity.
The organisation behind the latest report, the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG), has won few friends for its work documenting human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
Although it has been strongly critical of Israeli treatment of Palestinians, its criticism of the PA has seen its funding by European governments slashed.
Its latest report describes the situation in PA areas as “the Intra’fada” or “the chaos of the weapons”, and paints a picture of a society where the proliferation of guns has brought grave consequences for the people.
It says: “PA security forces do not live up to international laws and regulations concerning the treatment of individuals under arrest.
“There have been several cases in which Palestinian civilians were arrested without proper reason, and suffered beatings and other forms of torture at the hands of the police.”
It cites an incident in July last year in which a worker from Bethlehem was forcibly taken from his house and interrogated by members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, working with the PA, who accused him of collaborating with Israel.
“Under threat of violence [including firing at his feet] the man confessed to having committed certain thefts, but insisted that he was not responsible for Israeli assassinations of Palestinians in Bethlehem.
“When he finished his ‘confession’, the militants broke his hand and leg, smashed his teeth and hit him with an iron bar on his back. He was then dumped into a garbage container where he was found the next day.”
The report says the examples quoted are the tip of the iceberg. “Violence permeates the security forces, and it is worsened by legal confusions. Unless and until more accountability and order is introduced, the problem will remain and could worsen as PA control continues to deteriorate,” it says.
Just as the Red Cross and Amnesty investigators focused on cases in Iraq where civilians had been caught in gunbattles, the PHRMG identifies incidents in PA-controlled areas in which innocent bystanders have been struck by bullets.
“Sometimes violence erupts between police members and loyalists of political factions,” it says.
The report does lay some of the blame for the violence at the feet of Israel. It says that the failure to reach a substantive and acceptable peace agreement has led Palestinians to vent their feelings of futility against Palestinians.
According to the US-based Middle East Media Research Institute, Basem Eid, the man who set up the PHRMG after years investigating Israeli human rights abuses, has struggled to find funding because his former backers were concerned about the political implications of being seen to support a group that exposes Palestinian abuses.
Yesterday, MEMRI’s director, Yigal Carmon, said that as soon as Basem Eid decided to investigate Palestinian abuses as well as Israeli abuses, his support dried up.