Hamas authorities must guarantee safety of human rights activist

The Hamas de facto administration in Gaza must ensure that the investigation launched into multiple attacks on a human rights activist in Gaza who had written an article critical of the Hamas administration and armed groups is independent and impartial, Amnesty International said today.Mahmoud Abu Rahma of the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights was repeatedly stabbed in his back, shoulder and legs by masked men outside his home in southern Gaza city on Friday night, his organization said on Tuesday. The attack came only ten days after a group of masked men assaulted him in the street and punched him.“These attempts to silence a human rights defender are another attack on freedom of expression in Gaza, and send a chilling message to activists” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Interim Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa.“The authorities in Gaza must ensure the safety of Mahmoud Abu Rahma and that an independent and impartial investigation into this assault is completed as soon as possible. The perpetrators must be brought to justice.” The activist, who has previously received several death threats on his mobile and email, told Amnesty International today: “The men who stabbed me called me a traitor, a heretic, but regardless of the accusations and attacks I am determined to continue my work defending human rights in Palestine.” Mahmoud Abu Rahma published an article earlier this month calling for justice for people arbitrarily detained and tortured by Hamas officials, and for the authorities to investigate violations committed by Palestinian armed groups. The article also highlighted the fact that there is no accountability for the killings and injuries of Gazans sustained as a result of the operations of Palestinian armed groups against Israel.In a separate incident, members of the small Shi’a Muslim community in Gaza say security forces violently raided a religious ceremony in the home of a worshipper in the village of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday.During the celebrations, which commemorated the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, dozens of armed security members, some masked and others in police uniform, stormed the house without a warrant and arrested 20 men. The men were taken to Northern Gaza District police station where they were beaten repeatedly.Several of the men suffered injuries including broken limbs, while one man had two arms broken. They were later moved to two local hospitals, where the beatings by security forces continued.The Hamas-run Ministry of Interior said in a statement that the incident on Saturday was a raid on an outlawed group and insisted that there are no Shi’a Muslims in the occupied territories.The Ministry of Interior also said all allegations of human rights violations that took place during the raid will be investigated.

“The Hamas de facto administration must safeguard freedom of religion and belief for all minorities in Gaza, and see that those responsible for this attack on peaceful worshippers are held to account,”  said Ann Harrison.