Amnesty International accuses Hamas of torturing, carrying out summary executions in new report on Gaza conflict

A Hamas militant grabs a Palestinian suspected of collaborating with Israel, before being executed in Gaza City August 22, 2014.A Hamas militant grabs a Palestinian suspected of collaborating with Israel, before being executed in Gaza City August 22, 2014.

In a report on the Gaza conflict last summer, human rights group Amnesty International has accused Hamas of abducting, torturing, and carrying out summary executions of Palestinians.

The report, the last of four released by the group detailing events during the fighting, said that at least 23 Palestinians were shot and killed by Hamas, which rules Gaza, while dozens more were arrested and tortured.

Amnesty said those targeted were either political rivals of Hamas, including members of the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, or people Hamas had accused of cooperating with Israel.

The report detailed one particularly brutal spate of violence, which took place this past Aug. 22.

“In one of the most shocking incidents, six men were publicly executed by Hamas forces outside al-Omari mosque  in front of hundreds of spectators, including children,” the report said.

Amnesty added that the men were suspected as “collaborators” who had been sentenced to death in “revolutionary courts”.

“The hooded men were dragged along the floor to kneel by a wall facing the crowd, then each man was shot in the head individually before being sprayed with bullets fired from an AK-47,” the report said of the August incident.

In one section of the report, testimony from the brother of Atta Najjar, an ex-Palestinian Authority policeman imprisoned since 2009 and killed by Hamas last August, described the violence done to him in captivity.

“His arms and legs were broken … his body was as if you’d put it in a bag and smashed it … His body was riddled with about 30 bullets,” the brother was quoted as saying. “He had slaughter marks around his neck, marks of knives … And from behind the head – there was no brain. Empty … It was difficult for us to carry him … He was heavy, like when you put meat in a bag; no bones. His bones were smashed. They broke him in the prison.”

The report also revealed that Hamas used abandoned areas of a hospital in Gaza City to detain, question, and torture captives, even as other parts of the facility “continued to function as a medical centre [sic]”.

According to Philip Luther, director of Amnest’s Middle East and North Africa department, Hamas used the war to “ruthlessly settle scores, carrying out a series of unlawful killings and other grave abuses.,” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director, charged. “These spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes, were designed to exact revenge and spread fear across the Gaza Strip.”

“Hamas forces have displayed a disregard for the most fundamental rules of international humanitarian law,” Luther added. “Torture and cruel treatment of detainees in an armed conflict is a war crime. Extrajudicial executions are also war crimes.”

The report said 16 of the people killed by Hamas were already being held by the Islamist group when the conflict erupted and many of them were waiting to hear the verdict of their Hamas-organized trials. “Many had been sentenced after trials before courts whose proceedings are grossly unfair. A number had said they had been tortured in order to extract ‘confessions,'” the report said.

Hamas violently seized Gaza from forces loyal to Abbas in 2007.

Since then, Hamas has launched thousands of rockets at Israel.

In March, Amnesty International accused Hamas of war crimes for launching unguided rockets and mortars from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel, saying that was a breach of international law.

In particular, the report cited an incident in which a missile launched by Hamas misfired and killed 13 Palestinians, 11 of them children, when it exploded next to a market in a refugee camp.

Amnesty called on the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority and Hamas to “cooperate with independent and impartial international investigative mechanisms”, and to bring “suspected perpetrators” to justice.