Gaza,  Hamas,  Islamism

Hamas executions in Gaza go unscrutinised

This is a guest post by Just Journalism.

Last Friday (16 April), The Times, The Guardian and The Independent reported in their ‘News in brief’ (NIB) sections that Hamas had executed two Palestinians in Gaza, on suspicion of collaborating with Israel. All three NIBs presented the executions as a new development. James Hider, writing in the Times, described the event as ‘the first time that the Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers had executed anyone for that reason’, while both The Guardian and The Independent noted that they were the first ‘formal’ executions since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2006.

While none of the NIBs in the broadsheets made reference to Hamas’ use of unofficial executions against political dissidents, James Hider’s expanded version on the Times website noted that:

‘…rights groups say many more have been killed since [2006] in Gaza, where Hamas rules uneasily over a population riven by factional differences and where armed clans and other Islamist groups have their own power bases. Human Rights Watch accused Hamas of killing at least 32 political opponents and suspected informers, many of them during the month-long Israeli offensive at the end of 2008.’

This description was in direct contrast to the coverage on the BBC, which covered both the executions and their condemnation by the UN Human Rights Council in two separate articles. While both articles portrayed the killings as ‘the first time Hamas has implemented the death penalty’ and ‘the first executions in Gaza since Hamas took over’, respectively, neither mentioned allegations that Hamas has previously targeted and killed members of the Fatah party, which it sees as too conciliatory towards Israel. Instead, both featured a vague reference to the executions constituting ‘a further sign of tensions between the Islamist group and Mr Abbas’s secular party [Fatah]’.

No mention was made of allegations of killings during the Hamas takeover in 2007, as documented in the Human Rights Watch report ‘Internal Fight’ (29 July 2008), whose summary noted that ‘Neither [Hamas or Fatah] is known to have prosecuted any of its own forces for the serious abuses committed during the heavy fighting in Gaza in June 2007, including summary executions, maiming and torture.’

Similarly, no mention was made of the allegations that Hamas had targeted Fatah loyalists with reprisal attacks during the Gaza conflict of winter 2008/9, the subject of Human Rights Watch’s report ‘Under cover of war’ (20 April 2009), whose summary stated that during the three-week offensive, ‘Hamas authorities in the territory took extraordinary steps to control, intimidate, punish, and at times eliminate their internal political rivals and those suspected of collaboration with Israel.’

These allegations strongly suggest that the executions carried out last week, which have been widely condemned for failing to meet international standards of fair trial process, are not an aberration, but a continuation of Hamas’ policy of executing political opponents. While the article on the Times website carried the relevant background information, the coverage of the two executions on the BBC website did not.

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