The crime of torture under the PA
Introduction to the report
Some comments on the report
‘This report is very significant, first for documenting the awful abuses of human rights continuing on a daily basis in the West Bank, and second for illustrating the depths to which the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli occupation forces and the US and EU funders and supporters of the current approach have allowed the situation to sink. There will be shocking consequences if these issues are not addressed, above all by finding a realistic, determined and honourable way to end the occupation.’
Sir Jeremy Greenstock Former British ambassador to the United Nations
‘A shocking and important report documenting torture and abuse within the Palestinian security system. What little human rights focus the world deploys in the Middle East is trained upon the very obvious effects of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Too much of what goes on within the Palestinian Authority itself goes largely ignored.’
Jon Snow Journalist and TV presenter, Channel Four
A shocking extract:
Detainees mentioned the torture most were exposed to, particularly Shabh (hanging) in its various forms (some reported that they were hung from the second floor, upside down like slaughtered animals); severe beatings with sticks and hoses; threats of rape; and other abuse, such as deprivation of sleep for long periods.
It is important to state that detainees were kept hanging for different periods; 76% said about 20 days, 12% for more than a month. In addition, some were in Shabh intermittently for between 20 -100 hours, or 200-500 hours, or up to 1,600 hours over a six months period. While in such positions, detainees often suffered foot beating, ten rounds or more with 50 lashes in each round; this would take place for many days. (p.5)
The Arab Organization for Human Rights in Britain has issued several reports on human rights violations in the territory of the Palestinian Authority highlighting the practice of torture in prisons. It is clear that the Palestinian security services have been using torture on a wide and systematic basis for several years using, inter alia, the following techniques: shabh (hanging) of all kinds, beating with cables, pulling out nails, suspension from the ceiling, flogging, kicking, swearing and cursing, electric shocks, sexual harassment and the threat of rape. At least six people have been killed while undergoing torture in Palestinian Authority centres: Shadi Shaheen, Ramallah; Majd Barghouti, Ramallah; Mohammed al-Haj, Jenin; Kamal Abu Taima, Hebron; Haitham Amro, Hebron; Fadi Hamadna, Nablus. Many ex-detainees have permanent disabilities. Mass arrests have taken place on political grounds.
Given the ongoing torture in the prisons of the Palestinian Authority, on a large scale and systematically, the Arab Organization for Human Rights in Britain has documented such crimes for the three years from October 2007 to October 2010. The work was based on several primary sources:
1. Meetings with victims or their relatives to find out what happened to them in custody and written testimonies of the victims explaining what they had been subjected to.
2. Distributing a questionnaire, in secret, to detainees in prisons.
3. The analysis of data and figures about detention and torture during the period mentioned.
Video testimonies of victims or their relatives.
We have taken these steps discreetly, away from the eyes of the security services. Where requested, some of the victims or witnesses have been promised anonymity so that they will not face further persecution.
An analysis of the data shows that in the period under review, the security services detained almost 8,640 people at a rate of 8 arrests per day; on occasions, there were between 600-900 arrests in the space of a few days. Every one of those detainees has been subject to humiliating and degrading treatment and stayed in cells for more than ten days. Many have spent the prime of their youth behind bars. The analysis also shows that an astonishing 95% of the detainees were subjected to severe torture, others feeling the detrimental effects on their health for varying periods. Seventy-seven percent of the detainees had been in the custody of the occupation before being released and rearrested by the Palestinian Authority on the same charges.
Men and women from all sectors of Palestinian society have been subject to arrest and torture: students, workers, teachers, doctors, engineers, university professors and lawyers. Like their Israeli counterparts, the Palestinian security services also detain minors.
There is no sanctity for the house, university or school; even hospitals are violated. Raids with personnel wearing civilian and military clothing take place in the middle of the night; citizens are abducted from their places of work or study in broad daylight. Arrests themselves are harsh and often accompanied by verbal insults and physical beatings; detainees’ homes are ransacked and all too often valuables are stolen by the security forces. It is rare for an arrest warrant to be shown, the reasons for the arrest to be explained or the detainees’ rights to be read out. The mandatory court hearing within 24 hours of arrest does not usually take place and the victim is subject to torture and interrogation from the moment he is detained.