Hamas failed to probe Palestinian 'collaborator' deaths

Armed men drag body of suspected collaborator through Gaza's streets. 20 November 2012 Armed men dragged a body of a suspected collaborator through the streets of Gaza

Human Rights Watch says Gaza's Hamas government has failed to investigate the killings of seven Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel.

The men were shot in public and the body of one was dragged through the streets by a motorcycle.

The incident took place in November during the eight-day conflict between Hamas and Israel.

HRW said a promised inquiry into their deaths seemed not to have begun, a claim denied by Hamas.

The men had already been convicted by a military court in Gaza of spying for Israel, before armed men seized them from custody.

But HRW said their convictions may have been based on evidence extracted through torture.

"Hamas's inability or unwillingness to investigate the brazen murders of seven men makes a mockery of its claims that it's upholding the rule of law in Gaza," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of the New York-based HRW.

"Even before the killings, the abuses the men suffered made the criminal justice system a travesty, regardless of their guilt or innocence."

At the time, Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk called the killings "unlawful" and said the perpetrators should be punished.

On Thursday Hamas spokesman Ihab al-Ghusain denied the HRW allegation, saying that an inquiry headed by the prosecutor general had been set up just after the incident and had already made recommendations to the cabinet.

The HRW report came on the day Hamas had set as a deadline for suspected collaborators with Israel to turn themselves in, promising them an amnesty.

Collaborators are widely loathed in Palestinian society.

Gaza's Interior Ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan said security forces would conduct large-scale arrests of suspected collaborators as soon as the amnesty period ended on Thursday evening.

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