Following presidential decree, Hamas releases 45 Fatah prisoners

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Feb 25, 2021

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza launched 45 prisoners affiliated with rival Palestinian faction Fatah on Feb. 25. In an announcement, it mentioned the launched prisoners had been arrested over safety points that harmed resistance teams in Gaza, including their arrests weren’t politically motivated. The ministry mentioned the move was a part of efforts to enhance the ambiance forward of the upcoming Palestinian common elections. It mentioned there are not any prisoners “arrested for their political views and opinion” within the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh requested on Feb .22 the Hamas group to launch greater than 80 “political prisoners” held in Gaza prisons.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued Feb. 20 a decree ordering that public freedoms be noticed, together with the liberty to have interaction in political exercise, in accordance with the Palestinian Basic Law and different related regulation provisions.

The decree, which is binding on all events within the Palestinian territories, prohibits the prosecution, detention, arrest, apprehension and all types of illegal accountability for causes associated to freedom of opinion and political affiliation.

The decree additionally requires the discharge of all detainees and prisoners jailed for political affiliation or for expressing their opinion, or imprisoned on prices of some other party-related or faction-related causes within the Palestinian territories. In addition, it offers for the liberty to electoral campaigning, be it conventional, digital or printed, to carry political and electoral conferences, and to obtain electoral funding in accordance with the regulation. The decree additionally units forth equal alternative to media entry for all electoral lists with none discrimination by regulation.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem advised Al-Monitor, “The numbers mentioned by Mohammad Shtayyeh are incorrect. There are no political detainees in the Gaza Strip, but [they were arrested] over security issues.” He defined that Hamas is open to all steps and measures that will improve the ambiance of freedoms within the Gaza Strip, stressing that the factions in Gaza function all actions within the Strip with none obstacles. “The released prisoners were arrested over security issues that harmed resistance groups in Gaza. Their arrests were not politically motivated.”

Hamas chief Mahmoud Mardawi advised Al-Monitor that the decree comes as a part of the settlement reached throughout the inter-Palestinian factions talks in Cairo on Feb. 8-9 in preparation for the upcoming Palestinian elections.

“The Cairo agreement stressed the importance of providing the right environment conducive to free and fair elections. It stressed that every Palestinian individual or group is guaranteed the right to exercise freedom of electoral campaigning in accordance with the Palestinian Basic Law, without being subjected to any forms of coercion and pressure, and to willingly choose their representatives in the ballot boxes,” he mentioned.

According to Mardawi, the elections’ outcomes can solely be accepted if there are not any political arrests or any type of violation of private freedoms, together with the freedoms of motion, expression, peaceable meeting, or of the press and media, offered that the regulation isn’t violated.

“The elections cannot take place while there are still detainees in either the West Bank or the Gaza Strip,” Mardawi famous.

He indicated that the decree affirms the Palestinians’ proper to full freedom, and all partisan or official our bodies should adhere to mentioned decree and chorus from violating it. He additional mentioned that each one prisons should be freed from political detainees, and defined that the Palestinian courts, significantly the election court docket, will probably be in control of the decree’s implementation.

Mardawi added that two nationwide committees will probably be arrange with the duty to supervise and comply with up on the elections. The first will probably be made up of representatives of the Palestinian factions, and the second will probably be comprised of legal professionals and members of civil society establishments.

He added, “All factions can freely engage in activities as per their political program and as they see fit, so as to communicate their vision with their constituencies.”

“As Palestinians, our commitment to the decree will be tested. We hope that the decree is truly implemented and guarantees full freedoms,” Mardawi mentioned.

He continued, “In case of a violation by any of the parties, the committees will submit their report to the Egyptian sponsor [of the recent agreement reached in Cairo]. Based on that, independent committees will step in to correct the inconsistencies with the agreement.”

Al-Monitor reached out to plenty of Fatah detainees Hamas launched lately. But they refused to make any remark or clarify the explanations behind their launch.

One of these detainees who was lately launched, nonetheless, agreed to talk to Al-Monitor on situation of anonymity. He mentioned, “We are all afraid to speak. Before our release, they required us not to speak to neither the media nor human rights institutions.”

Fatah activists are being imprisoned on prices of “cooperating with the national authority in Ramallah,” he added.

He mentioned he had been detained for greater than three months for this very cause, stressing that he’s unwilling to train any type of freedoms, particularly freedom of expression, and can dedicate his time to his household. “I am now convinced that politics are a masquerade.”

Yaser Weshah, a Fatah activist and secretary of the Palestinian People’s Committee for Refugees at al-Bureij Refugee Camp, advised Al-Monitor, “Abbas’ decree will cease to apply as soon as the elections and electoral campaigns begin. [The factions] will all challenge each other’s [actions], and once the elections are over, the number of prisoners of conscience in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip will have increased.”

Wishah, additionally a former prisoner of conscience who was jailed in Hamas prisons in 2017, additional mentioned, “The Hamas government arrested me because I held a sign that read ‘No to political arrests’ on one of [Gaza’s] main streets. I was released 12 days after my arrest in exchange for the Palestinian Authority’s release of a Hamas activist in Ramallah’s prisons.”

“I know people who confessed under torture to doing things they had not [done],” he added.

 Wishah believes that Hamas’ launch of a lot of prisoners of conscience prior to now few days will depend on the Palestinian reconciliation — if it fails, they are going to be all introduced again to jail. “The remaining are those involved in other types of cases.”

Dozens of Fatah activists who had been detained in Gaza prisons had been lately launched by Hamas. It stays unclear nonetheless what number of prisoners of conscience stay in Hamas’ prisons.

Mustafa Ibrahim, coordinator of the Advocacy Unit on the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), advised Al-Monitor that Abbas’ decree, if carried out, will create an environment conducive to the elections, similar to the fitting to participate in political actions, and can the folks to train public freedoms with out restrictions.

Ibrahim believes the decree is a step in the fitting path because it eliminates public freedom restrictions and human rights violations that the Palestinian territories have witnessed over the previous 15 years. The decree would allow the folks to train the fitting to vote, the liberty of opinion and expression accompanying the election course of, along with the liberty of entry to info and peaceable meeting, he added.

He indicated that “the decree affirms the Palestinian Basic Law, which guarantees the freedom of opinion and access to information and movement. Yet that was nonexistent in the past years due to the political divide.”

A report launched by the ICHR in January 2020 documented violations of the freedoms of opinion and expression throughout the yr 2019 primarily based on the complaints filed earlier than the ICHR. Eighty-three complaints had been introduced on violations of freedom of opinion and expression, together with 33 within the West Bank and 50 within the Gaza Strip. In addition, 18 complaints had been obtained on violations of the fitting to peaceable meeting, together with three within the West Bank and 15 within the Gaza Strip.

Ibrahim defined that regardless of the tons of of complaints they obtained prior to now years, the ruling authorities in each Gaza and the West Bank don’t admit that they’ve prisoners of conscience. The Gaza authorities deliver towards Fatah supporters prices of cooperating with Ramallah, whereas in Ramallah, Hamas supporters are accused of financing unofficial our bodies.

Samir Zaqout, director of Monitoring and Awareness at Al Mezan Center for Human Rights within the Gaza Strip, advised Al-Monitor that the Palestinian division has undermined human rights and public freedoms, as political rivalries had been ongoing over the previous years. Human rights violations have turn out to be widespread within the Palestinian territories, particularly violations of the liberty to criticize the ruling authorities, he mentioned.

Zaqout added, “Some laws are [currently] in force that undermine the basic [rights] mentioned in the Basic Law, such as the cybercrime law in the West Bank.”

He mentioned that one of the crucial necessary standards guaranteeing honest elections is to make sure a free ambiance. He anticipated that in case Fatah and Hamas acted in good religion, the decree will shut the file of political detentions. He said, “The decree proves that the two parties have prisoners of conscience, which they repeatedly denied before us and all human rights organizations as well.”