Human rights conditions have worsened in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank since Hamas took over Gaza last year, a Palestinian rights group said on Tuesday.
The Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens' Rights (PICCR) said rights abuses had increased in both territories after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip following clashes with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction in June.
"Our report finds that unfortunately because of what happened in Gaza, and the violent confrontation between Fatah and Hamas, grave human rights violations have resulted," PICCR head Mamdouh al-Aker said.
"There is a regression in the status of human rights in Gaza and the West Bank," he told Reuters ahead of the release of his group's annual report.
Abbas sacked a Hamas-led government following Hamas's seizure of Gaza on June 14 and appointed a Western-backed administration in the West Bank - a move that eased trade sanctions. Israel has since tightened its blockade on Gaza.
The PICCR, which has offices in both territories, said Fatah and Hamas had both tried to use the law "as a tool to justify practices and policies each side uses to challenge the other".
Human rights groups have reported abuses by Hamas forces and militants in Gaza such as the killing of prisoners in detention, some cases of torture during interrogation, and the treating of Fatah as a banned group.
In the West Bank, Hamas has also complained about a Fatah crackdown against its members. Rights groups have reported arrests and in some cases torture of its members, and death during interrogation.
'A future police state'Abdel-Razak al-Yahya, Palestinian interior minister in Abbas' government, told Reuters that human rights conditions had improved in the West Bank in the past year.
"Human rights abuses are not equal in the West Bank and Gaza. There have been individual cases of violations here but we have given very strict and written instructions to the security forces not to use force," Yahya said.
Aker said representatives of his group met with Abbas on Monday and asked to him to ban torture in the Palestinian areas. He said Abbas and Hamas had made progress on restoring public order.
"But we told him we have noticed a tendency towards militarisation in both areas, as if a state of lawlessness had shifted to a sort of a security state, a police state. We don't want our future state to be a police state," Aker said.
Ehab al-Ghsain, spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza, said some isolated human rights abuses took place after the takeover. But he said human rights conditions overall in the enclave had improved since June.
Jaber Washah, deputy director of the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), said freedom of expression and peaceful protests had been restricted in Gaza and the West Bank.
Journalists have in some cases been beaten up by police in both areas, some have been detained, and the distribution of some newspapers has been banned.
"What is more dangerous is that journalists are now exercising self-censorship," Washah said.