Palestinian rights group criticises Hamas and Fatah

RAMALLAH, West Bank, March 19 (Reuters) - Security forces controlled by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and those loyal to the Fatah faction in the West Bank routinely carry out politically motivated arrests, a Palestinian rights group said on Thursday.

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), issuing its annual report, said five Palestinians died in 2008 in questionable circumstances in prisons in the West Bank, where Fatah holds sway, and two in jails in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

"Arbitrary arrests based on political motives have become part of the daily work of the security services in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," the report said.

The ICHR said it had documented torture in Palestinian prisons in the two territories that included beatings, the removal of fingernails and sleep deprivation.

After receiving the report, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah's leader, vowed to end any mistreatment of detainees, ICHR director Mamdouh al-Aker said.

The ICHR said it had not yet delivered the report to Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has denied previous allegations that its security forces carry out politically motivated arrests or mistreat prisoners.

The ICHR, which operates in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, said it received 2,312 complaints of arrests and prisoner mistreatment in 2008 compared with 2,007 in the previous year.

Aker said several Palestinians were killed in public in the Gaza Strip after being accused of collaboration with Israel shortly after the end in January of its 22-day offensive in the territory.

Hamas, which won a Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006, violently wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah forces in 2007. Each side has accused the other of human rights abuses. (Reporting by Mohammed Assadi and Ali Sawafta, Writing by Mohammed Assadi; Editing by Charles Dick) (For blogs and links on Israeli politics and other Israeli and Palestinian news, go to